Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of severe memory loss or dementia. Affecting 5 million people in the United States, this disease destroys the parts of the brain that control thinking, language, and judgment. Though there are a growing number of treatments available, there is no cure for AD. Researchers at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (HIHG) have been at the forefront of discovering the genetics behind AD.
In 1993, a team led by HIHG Director Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., discovered the first major genetic risk factor for late onset AD. They found that people who inherit a version of the apolipoprotein-E gene (APOE) are at significantly increased risk for developing the disease. (Corder et al., 1993). Numerous studies indicate that individuals with a family history of AD have a greater chance of developing the disease. The research conducted by Dr. Pericak-Vance and HIHG researchers is focused on finding other genes linked to the cause of AD which will lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatments.