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Known genetic risk for Alzheimer's in whites also places blacks at risk
Date:6/18/2008

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A commonly recognized gene that places one at risk for Alzheimer's disease does not discriminate between blacks and whites, according to new research led by Florida State University.

FSU Psychology Professor Natalie Sachs-Ericsson and graduate student Kathryn Sawyer have found that the gene APOE epsilon 4 allele is a risk factor for African-Americans as well as whites. Until now, it has been a mainstream belief that the gene is only a risk factor for whites.

"The results of our study have clear implications for research and treatment of Alzheimer's disease," Sachs-Ericsson said. "The APOE test might be used as one tool in identifying people who are at risk for Alzheimer's. We now know that African- Americans and Caucasians alike need to be considered for such risk assessments."

Sachs-Ericsson and Sawyer collaborated with Kristopher Preacher of the University of Kansas and Dan Blazer of Duke University Medical Center on the study. The study has been published online in the journal Gerontology.

The researchers' findings underscore the importance of including both blacks and whites in future studies that explore why the APOE genotype is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, a progressive and fatal brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. By understanding the mechanism by which the genotype confers risk, scientists could potentially develop medicines that slow the progress of Alzheimer's or even prevent it, according to Sachs-Ericsson.

Sachs-Ericsson's team theorized that small sample sizes coupled with possible racial bias in measuring cognitive functioning may explain why some studies have failed to detect the effect of the APOE epsilon 4 allele on cognitive decline among blacks.

In addition, false-positive rates for dementia on standardized screening tests are higher for blacks than for whites when compared to neurologists' ratings of cognitive sta
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Contact: Natalie Sachs-Ericsson
sachs@psy.fsu.edu
850-644-4576
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert

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