These days, James and Birdie Brown enjoy watching TV together.
But college is where their story began.
The two married and had five children -- all of them doctors.
However, that didn't save Birdie from Alzheimer's disease.
When James had a stroke two years ago, the couple moved into this assisted living center.
The Browns are one of 35-million families living with Alzheimer's worldwide.
A new, international initiative could help unravel the disease's mysteries.
Doctor Jonathan Haines of Vanderbilt University is part of the global team that will map all the genes involved in Alzheimer's.
By comparing the genes of 20-thousand Alzheimer's patients with 20-thousand healthy elderly subjects, they should be able to identify ways of slowing or stopping or even potentially preventing the disease from occurring.
For now, James will stick to a promise he made long ago, saying "I do " through sickness and in health.
More information on next page.
BACKGROUND: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia or memory loss that is serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases. There are more than 5.3 million people in the United States with the disease. Alzheimer’s Disease International estimates there are 35.6 million people living with dementia worldwide. Total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were $604 billion in 2010.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over the years. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms begin, but survival can range from four to 20 years. Alzheimer’s is fatal and currently has no cure. Available drugs only marginally affect disease severity.
(SOURCE: Alzheimer’s Association)
RISK FACTORS: The most important risk factors are age (most individuals with Alzheimer’s are over 65), family history and heredity. Scientists know genes are involved in Alzheimer’s. Genetic tests are available for both APOE e4 and the rare genes that directly cause Alzheimer’s. Still, health professionals do not routinely recommend genetic testing for Alzheimer’s.
(SOURCE: Alzheimer’s Association)
MAPPING ALL ALZHEIMER’S GENES: There is now a global collaboration to discover and map all genes relating to Alzheimer’s disease. The collaborative effort is known as the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project (IGAP) and will combine the knowledge, staff and resources of four consortia that work on Alzheimer’s disease genes:
Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC) from the United States
European Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (EADI) in France
Genetic and Environmental Risk in Alzheimer’s Disease (GERAD) from the United Kingdom
Neurology subgroup of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE)
IGAP researchers will compare the genetic information of more than 20,000 Alzheimer’s patients with 20,000 healthy elderly subjects. As the study progresses, 10,000 additional people with Alzheimer’s and 10,000 healthy elderly subjects will be added to the study.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Craig Boerner, National News Director
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
(Information provided by Ivanhoe)
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