Nov 27, 2017

Is Alzheimer's Disease Hereditary? Rudy Tanzi Answers

A significant portion of Alzheimer's disease is caused by the inheritance of defective genes. ~ Rudy Tanzi

The role of heredity (the passing of traits to offspring from parents and/or ancestors) in Alzheimer's disease is not well understood. In fact, the role of heredity in AD is mostly misunderstood.

A significant portion of Alzheimer's disease is caused by the inheritance of defective genes. ~ Rudy Tanzi

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Rudy Tanzi clears up much of this misunderstanding in the interview below.

Rudy Tanzi is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School; and, Director, of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rudy is also a good friend of the Alzheimer's Reading Room.

After watching, listening and reading, I hope you will consider sharing this important information with other members of the Alzheimer's community.

Part 1: Alzheimer's and Genetics

Is Alzheimer's hereditary?

Yes. All cases have some genetic component. The earlier the age of onset, the stronger the role of genetics. The later the age of onset, the more interplay of genes with environment and lifestyle.

If I have no family history, am I still vulnerable to Alzheimer's?

Yes - especially if you live longer than your ancestors. You shouldn't assume you're immune just because you have no family history of Alzheimer's.

Can we recommend genetic testing for anyone?

Only if it's reliable, and only for families with a history of early-onset Alzheimer's which often involves the especially virulent presenilin 1 and 2 genes. For late-onset Alzheimer's, we're still finding the relevant genes.

Also, the direct-to-consumer testing out there is not reliable.

Even if the testing was reliable, we're not at the point yet where this information would allow us to give you a personalized medicine/treatment strategy. Still, some people will just want to know.

How accurate is the APOE score in prediction of Alzheimer's?

Not very accurate. First, it depends how many copies of the gene you have.

One copy of APOE4 increases your risk three- to four-fold. That doesn't at all mean that you're guaranteed to get the disease in your lifetime.

Even if you have copies from both parents, you are not guaranteed to get the disease - and it could take until you're 90 to manifest.

Want to join in the fight against Alzheimer's disease?

I strongly suggest you consider a donation to the Cure Alzheimer's Fund. The Research Consortium and Scientific Advisory Board reads like a Who's Who of Alzheimer's disease.

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