Study participants at risk for Alzheimer's talk about their genetic test results

by Laura Bailey
Image courtesy of Peter Schottenfeld

If you had a family history of developing Alzheimer's disease, would you take a genetic test that would give you more information about your chances?

"Definitely," said Gloria VanAlstine, 60, and Joyce Smith, 79. The two women took a controversial genetic test of a gene called Apolipoprotein E. APOE is a where certain variants have been found to significantly increase a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Both women have a family history of Alzheimer's, which increases risk.

The genetic test was conducted as part of the Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer's disease Study (REVEAL), a series of clinical trials taking place at U-M School of Public Health, with other sites including Harvard University, Howard University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

APOE testing is controversial in the medical community because the variant is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause Alzheimer's disease. This limitation, along a with a general lack of treatment options for Alzheimer's, has raised concerns that the genetic information could burden rather than benefit patients. There have been numerous consensus statements and articles against using APOE genotyping for predicting Alzheimer's risk.

However, most of the who took the test, including VanAlstine and Smith, wanted to learn about their APOE test results and were not overtly distressed by them, said Scott Roberts, associate professor in U-M SPH, and co-principal investigator of REVEAL, along with Robert Green at Harvard University School of Medicine.

The National Society of Genetic Counselors and American College of recently developed practice guidelines for genetic counseling and testing for Alzheimer's disease. Roberts is one of the authors.

The guidelines provide clinicians with a framework for assessing their patients' for Alzheimer's disease, identifying which individuals may benefit from , and providing the key elements of . Alzheimer's disease is traditionally subdivided into early onset and late onset types. Early onset occurs before age 60-65 years and accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all cases, while late onset occurs after 60-65 years and is the predominant form.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gene tests and brain imaging reveal early dementia

Mar 06, 2007

Dementia diseases develop insidiously and are generally discovered when the memory has already started to deteriorate. New research form Karolinska Institutet shows, however, that approaching Alzheimer's can be detected several ...

Recommended for you

Ebola mistakes should serve a lesson says WHO

16 hours ago

The World Health Organization's chief admitted on Sunday that the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve as a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future.

British Ebola nurse discharged from hospital

23 hours ago

A British nurse who contracted Ebola while working as a volunteer in Sierra Leone said she was "happy to be alive" as she was discharged from hospital on Saturday having made a full recovery.

Tide turning in Ebola fight after hard lessons

Jan 24, 2015

A top U.N. official in the fight against Ebola greeted just three patients at one treatment center he visited this week in Sierra Leone. Families in Liberia are no longer required to cremate the remains of ...

Just five Ebola cases left in Liberia: UN

Jan 24, 2015

The United Nations said on Saturday Liberia was dealing with just five remaining cases of Ebola, in the clearest sign yet that the country is nearing the end of the outbreak.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.