This month’s expert is Elizabeth C. Mormino, PhD, Instructor of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dear Dr. Mormino,
I’ve read that Alzheimer’s disease begins decades before it can be detected in people. Are researchers looking for ways to predict Alzheimer’s before then, maybe even in youngish people, like me?
Great question and timely, too. Yes, many top Alzheimer’s researchers are pursuing studies to learn how to detect people at high-risk for the disease. This information also is important to research focused on preventing Alzheimer’s, which has gained significant momentum in recent years.
In fact, a study my colleagues and I recently published shows some genetic variants may influence well-known Alzheimer’s disease markers early in life. This is long before the sticky deposit called “amyloid” – which accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease – can be detected.
We’re excited and encouraged by the possibility of these findings. However, we know that additional research is needed into this “polygenic risk” approach to detecting Alzheimer’s disease. This, Linda, is why it’s essential that “youngish” people like you get involved in Alzheimer’s research. I’m not sure of your exact age, Linda, but here are two good places to start:
GeneMatch – You may have heard of this study, and you may have even already joined this study. If you have, thank you! If you haven't, this is open to people ages 55-75 who live in the United States and don’t have a cognitive impairment diagnosis or Alzheimer’s disease. Getting involved with GeneMatch begins with a simple swab test. From there GeneMatch participants may be invited to learn about studies for which they may be compatible, based in part by age and genotype, and then decide if they want to join them.
Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (APR) Find a Study – The APR Find a Study page features a list of study opportunities that you can browse, learn more about and even get started as a research participant. The list includes a variety of studies, including online studies, intervention studies, treatment studies and prevention studies; there truly is something for everyone! Most of the studies listed on this page do not require prior participation in studies such as GeneMatch.
Linda, thank you for your excellent question. You, and people like you, are really the answer to early diagnosis and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. I hope you’ll get involved in the quest to end Alzheimer’s.