New Alzheimer's Research - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Saturday, February 19, 2004

New Alzheimer's Research

She searches for words, loses her key and forgets her grandchildren's names. The diagnosis? Alzheimer's Disease. Watching a parent lose a battle with Alzheimer's is devastating. The disease robs her of her memory, the ability to recognize loved ones, and the ability to take care of herself. Researchers have identified genes that may help predict who will get Alzheimer's. Now, doctors at Mayo Clinic are studying whether people who have that gene experience memory changes before typical symptoms begin.

"This one's of my mother teaching in 1929."

1929. Long before Alleen Nilson and her brother Malcolm watched Alzheimer's disease begin it's slow claim on their mother.

"Oh, she was a confident person."

Who became meek and confused, decades after Alleen's mom closed the book on teaching,

"She would always have these fantasies about being back at school and we would say, 'Mother this doesn't make any sense.'"

Alleen carries on her mom's teaching legacy as a professor of children's literature, but she fears she'll continue the legacy of Alzheimer's too.

"I'm sure I have the gene."

Only a computer at Mayo Clinic knows for sure. You see, Alleen was tested for the Alzheimer's gene as part of a study. She also, like this woman, took memory tests.

"Put on numbers as they would appear on a clock..."

Doctor Richard Caselli is using the data to find out if the gene that puts us at risk for Alzheimer's causes changes in memory skills before the disease actually develops. Preliminary data suggests there's...

"An accelerated decline in memory skills in people who are at genetic risk of Alzheimer's disease."

Especially when they're tired or stressed. If this proves true, Dr. Caselli hopes to be able to identify people at risk and eventually offer treatments that will prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The disease that claimed Alleen's mother, and the disease that may claim Alleen too.

Right now there is no cure Alzheimer's disease but researchers are working hard to find out who's at risk and ways to protect them. For more information about this Mayo Clinic study, call 480-301-8000. For more information about Alzheimer's disease, log onto

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