Sep 15, 2013

Is There a True Medical Benefit From Knowing Your APOe4 Genotype?

Would the availability of helpful drugs change your decision about being tested for Alzheimer's disease?

By Max Wallack
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator

Last month I wrote an article, Would You Want to be Tested for the APOe4 Gene?

I asked the reasons why people would, or would not, want to know their APOe4 genotype. In other words, I was asking if people would want to know if they are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer's disease.

I received many interesting responses. Many people did want to know.

Among the people who did not want to know, there were two major reasons. Lack of confidence in the security of the information and its potential to negatively influence one’s employment or eligibility for insurance was the primary reason.

Another reason people did not want to know was that they believed that whether they were aware of their status or not would not make any difference in the ultimate medical outcome. In other words, if there is no effective cure or treatment, the knowledge doesn’t produce a tangible result.

A scientific paper that I co-authored on this topic recently appeared in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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This research was about the effectiveness of ACE inhibiting drugs, such as lisinopryl, on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The results showed that ACE inhibitors were beneficial in slowing Alzheimer’s in patients who were APOe3 or APOe2, but not effective in those who were APOe4. 

My first thoughts upon learning these results were that here is a situation where knowing one’s APOe4 genotype would make a real difference in a decision about whether to begin taking these drugs.

I am currently researching a hormone which is showing great promise as an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease and as a possible treatment. The results in mice are very encouraging.

Not only do the mice greatly reduce their Amyloid Beta buildup, they also score much higher on memory tests as a result. We are already beginning some clinical trials on human patients.

I am feeling very hopeful.

Max Wallack is a student at Boston University and a Research Intern in the Molecular Psychiatry and Aging Laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients. Max is also coauthor of the book, "Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in the Refrigerator? An Explanation of Alzheimer's Disease For Children"

You are reading original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room