Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Inheriting Alzheimer's Disease

The top story in today's online version of The New York Times involves a Columbian family with strong genetic links to Alzheimer's Disease, which tends to grab hold of their brains by their 40s and leave them seriously impaired by their 50s. From tests being conducted on members, scientists hope to find new treatments to counter the terminal disease well before symptoms start to show. It's a fascinating tale worth reading. Some family members have made serious choices for fear of "spreading" the disease. One father voluntarily was sterilized once he realized he could pass on the fatal illness.

Consider this passage from another family member being treated at an Arizona facility:

“Psychologically it’s very tough,” said their daughter Natalia Agudelo, 24, who also traveled to Phoenix.
“After they lose memory, what remains are their instincts like animals,” she said, adding that her father can still chew and make other instinctive movements. “Until his last moment, we’ll be there seeing what more we can do to help, what more we can do to love.”

Natalia and her younger brother and sister may have inherited the mutation from their father or, if their mother is a carrier, from her as well. As a result, Natalia has decided not to have children.

“I love babies, and I’d be so happy with children, but having a child isn’t just ‘Oh, how cute,’ ” she said. “You have to be realistic and be clear that the disease is very tough. They say in Medellin, ‘Don’t go spreading the Alzheimer’s around.’ ”

Article: Hoping to Crack Alzheimer's, Together As a Family
Photo of Natalia courtesy of NYTimes.com

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