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Mayo Clinic Study Finds Earliest Evidence of Memory Decline in Middle-Aged People at Genetic Risk for Alzheimer's Disease
Date:7/15/2009

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., July 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Memory lapses that occur with normal aging are a source of worry for many who fear Alzheimer's disease. Now a new Mayo Clinic-led study published in the July 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the carriers of a common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease begin to have memory declines in their mid-50s, far earlier than previously thought.

These and other findings reported by researchers and their colleagues in the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium support the possibility that future Alzheimer's treatments may be most effective if started in middle-aged people, years before the onset of disabling memory and thinking problems or extensive brain pathology.

The study, which followed participants for up to 14 years, used sensitive memory and thinking tests to detect, track and compare cognitive performance in 815 healthy people, 21 to 97 years of age, with two copies, one copy and no copies of the APOE e4 gene, the major genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease at older ages. Each additional copy of this gene is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease and a slightly younger age at the onset of clinically significant memory and thinking problems.

Approximately one out of four people have one copy of the APOE e4 gene, which was inherited from one parent, and about 2 percent have two copies, which were inherited from both parents.

"We found that memory declines begin to differentiate groups of people at these three levels of genetic risk starting between ages 55 and 60, years earlier than previously suspected, and well before the anticipated onset of clinically significant symptoms," said Rich
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SOURCE Mayo Clinic
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