Testing for Alzheimer's Disease: The Genetic Risk Factor

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The advances of medical research and current findings may be able to pre-determine an individual’s probability of developing Alzheimer's disease based on family history and medical testing. This is great news for families with a history of Alzheimer’s disease because currently Alzheimer’s can only be truly diagnosed upon death with an autopsy (National Institute on Aging, 2002). Researchers are getting closer every day to being able to positively test for this disease in patients already exhibiting symptoms of the disease but the breakthrough is for the generation that can find out before symptoms appear and be able to treat it early.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs the person afflicted with it of their short term memory. The person will often remember something that happened thirty years ago but they rarely recognize their immediate surroundings. The Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral Center (ADEAR), a Service of the National Institute on Aging, states, “AD is an irreversible, progressive brain disease characterized by the development of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, the loss of connections between nerve cells in the brain, and the death of these nerves cells”(Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Fact Sheet, 2008). This terrible disease hinders an individual’s capacity to perform common everyday tasks and makes strangers out of their closest loved ones.

There are two distinct types of Alzheimer’s disease and scientists have found genetic links in both types. The first type is the early-onset and “is a rare form of AD, affecting only about 5 percent of all people who have AD” (Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Fact Sheet, 2008) Early-onset develops in individuals aged 30 to 60 and this type of the disease ...

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