An extended family in Colombia with a genetic mutation causing Alzheimer’s may help scientists prevent the disease someday.
Alzheimer's Reading Room
Antioquia, Columbia (capital city, Medellin) is home to the largest concentration of people in the world who carry a rare gene that makes them 100 percent certain to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
It strikes when people are in their mid-40s and leads to death about a decade later.
The following excerpts are from “The Alzheimer’s Laboratory”. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Shari Finkelstein, producer.
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Lesley Stahl: You’ve been working on this 30 years. How do you cope with all this pain?
Francisco Lopera: [breaks down]
It was not the response we had expected.
They thought it might be genetic, so Madrigal spent days at parish churches, poring over heavy ledgers where priests for generations had recorded village births, marriages, and deaths. Thanks to these meticulous records, she was able to trace the disease back hundreds of years, and to make an important discovery -- the different families were actually one huge extended family, connected generations back by common ancestors who had died young, with an unusual cause of death written down by the priest: “softening of the brain.”
Pierre Tariot: At the end of the meeting, each scientist was allowed to say one closing thought. And Francisco had the last word.
Lesley Stahl: Lopera?
Pierre Tariot: And he paused a long time. And you could hear a pin drop in the room.
Francisco Lopera: I said to them-- “We w-- the families are waiting for you.”
Ken Kosik: I am always impressed that these families that come from such a remote area of the world-- have the potential for informing all of us, globally, about a path forward for conquering Alzheimer’s.
Watch The Alzheimer's Laboratory from 60 Minutes below.
Read the complete transcript - 60 Minutes The Alzheimer's Laboratory
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