Dementia and Genetics

 

It’s A Family Affair

If you follow Alzheimer’s research, you may have heard of a village in Colombia called Yarumal, population of over 5000. Yarumal has the largest known population affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.

More than 5,000 people in Yarumal who share the same blood line are affected. Genetic mutation and a linked bloodline means that most village residents will have dementia by the age of 40. In the following interview, Dr. Ashok Patel, Medical Director of the Memory and Aging Center of New Jersey, discusses the importance of current research in Yarumal.

Why is Yarumal so important to researchers? Well, for one, it has the highest per capita rate of Alzheimer’s Disease in the world. Twenty-five extended families in Yarumal are affected. These families, who all share the bloodline of one 350 year-old Spanish conquistador, have provided information and tissue for studies spanning more than 30 years. This research has sparked interest and hope among families, physicians and researchers across the globe.

What’s next in the assault against Alzheimer’s? The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative is conducting drug trials to determine if giving treatment before the onset of dementia can lead to preventing Alzheimer’s. The families in Yarumal have inherited a genetic mutation that almost guarantees that they will develop Alzheimer’s. This makes them the perfect recipients for such new treatments.

Is there a link between early onset and late-onset Alzheimer’s? Not necessarily. There are differences in the form of inheritance of early and late-onset Alzheimer's, as well as in the pace of its progression, and so on. But despite these differences, the brain atrophy--the shrinkage or decay of the brain--in both types of the diseases were found to be identical. I believe that millions of people may benefit from more effective Alzheimer’s treatments in the future as a result of this ongoing research.

Despite the differences between the inherited form of Alzheimer’s and the more common type that mainly affects the elderly, the brain lesions in both types of the diseases were found to be identical. I believe that millions of people may benefit from more effective Alzheimer’s treatments in the future as a result of this ongoing research.

Are you concerned about memory loss? The Memory and Aging Center of New Jersey offers thorough memory evaluations to determine the current status of memory and to find the right treatment option for the patient. We provide the latest advanced testing and screening for Alzheimer’s. We conduct the test for the APOE gene and perform scans to detect amyloid plaques. Contact us for more information or to schedule a free evaluation.

More information about The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative can be found in the July 2014 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia.