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New gene may predict Alzheimer’s timing

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According to HealthDay News, U.S. researchers have discovered a gene that may be able to predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and the age at which a person may begin to show symptoms.

The gene is known as TOMM40 and could predict the age of a person when Alzheimer’s begins to set in within a five-to-seven-year window, but only among people over 60, as the Duke University Medical Center research team reported.

At first thought, this sounds like wonderful news, right? I actually lost my great-grandmother five years ago to Alzheimer’s, and watched my grandmother, her daughter, experience the loss that comes with a loved one getting the disease. It was painful for me to watch as the days would pass, my great-grandmother forgetting her daughter’s name, her daughter’s face, and eventually, the whole family.

Any new information on this disease would be helpful. At least a family could prepare for it, if this gene does prove to be what researchers believe.

But what about the down sides to the discovery of this gene and its potential abilities?

If people are able to be tested for developing Alzheimer’s, essentially, and say a person is tested and is found to have potential for developing Alzheimer’s at some point, won’t his or her insurance skyrocket? Of course. Is this fair? I think not.

What if the test produces false results and a person who would never actually develop the disease is told he or she will at some point. That’s some pretty serious information to take to heart, not to mention the affect on the person’s family, and all based on probability, even as high as that number may be in the case of this gene, which they say would provide a “highly accurate prediction of the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

As with much new information and technological advancement, this could be both a gift and a curse.

Brittany @ July 13, 2009

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