Over 500,00 people in the UK are suffering from Alzheimer’s. The disease is one of the scariest and breaks more hearts than can be counted.
What Is Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking ability and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Alzheimer’s disease, named after the doctor Alois Alzheimer, who first described it. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to affect with daily life.
But there’s some good news. Scientists have found a genetic variation which can delay the onset of the disease. A study of people that came from the same ancestral family was able to capture the variation. The family seems to have passed down a severe and rather rare type of the disease. This one is caused by the mutation of a single gene. The research was undertaken by the Australian National University, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, the University of Antioquia in Colombia, New York University, University of Kentucky, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, and Flinders University.
People that fell within the ‘family’ i.e. over 5,000 people, were known to have PSEN1, a gene that is also called the Paisa mutation. This gene makes people acquire the disease at a much younger age. People within this group acquire Alzheimer’s when they hit 49 years of age, on average. However, this can vary as some of the people developed it in their 30s, and others in their 70s. And therein lies the rub. Researchers wanted to know what made someone acquire the issue early, while others developed it so late.
The study shows that all 5,000 of the people in the sample either had or would have the disease. However, it’s also important to note that many of the people in the group didn’t have the Paisa mutation.
Alzheimer’s Delaying Gene Has Been Found
The study showed that PSEN1 can be mutated by an allele called APOE*E2 which can delay the point where the disease activates itself by over 12 years. That’s a huge number of years for people that could be afflicted by the disease.
It’s a strong study because the sample size that it worked with is rather huge. And because it followed statistical modeling we can actually rely on the results as well. There is no subjectivity marring the results or external factors that could account for errors.
People should get excited about this research because it basically helps highlight what factors can come into play when the disease begins to first show evidence that it exists. However, the results have to be taken with a pinch of salt because there’s no telling if they can be applied to people that are not from the family group that was under observation.
More research is needed before it can be concluded that the genetic variants that the study has found affect other forms of Alzheimer’s. This research needs to be conducted worldwide and cannot be centered around one place.
The study, while its findings are limited, can help the answer what is Alzheimer’s cause and develop solutions to Alzheimer’s on the whole. If that’s not cause for celebration, we don’t know what is.