How One Family is Changing Alzheimer's Research

Tim Watt  |  June 20, 2012

Recent research on Alzheimer's disease is determining genetic ties to the condition, providing many individuals with the option of finding out at a young age whether they have a mutated gene that may eventually cause them to have the same symptoms they have seen in their parents or grandparents. However, as science progresses, families are faced with the tough question of whether they want to know if they have the gene.

One research project in particular, the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN), is working to understand the gene mutation to find clues for treatment and prevention of the disease, and the Reiswig family is helping, according to The New York Times.

The genetic mutation that can pass early-onset Alzheimer's down through families only accounts for about 1 percent of all cases of the disease. Still, researchers believe studying these cases are one of the best ways to find a cure or treatment.

For members of the Reiswig family, many of whom are participating in the DIAN study, dealing with Alzheimer's care was a personal matter, but one that has defined almost everyone's life within their bloodline. In one generation, 10 of 14 siblings carried the gene, and all 10 died from the disease, the news outlet reports. The odds that their children would have the condition were about one in two, causing many members to rethink plans to have children and start certain careers.

Gary Reiswig had defined his life based on the fear of the disease, but ultimately found he did not have the gene, the news outlet reports. The same happened for his niece. As research continues, more people might find similar relief.

DIAN's official website reports that the study is important because it develops a pattern that resembles the more common late-onset form of Alzheimer's, allowing researchers to see how the disease develops and what could be done to stop it. 

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