Genetic mutations often get a bad rap, but they may actually help advance research for disease prevention. For example, a genetic mutation led to a devastating epidemic of early onset Alzheimer’s disease within Doug Whitney’s family. However, at 65 years of age, Doug himself has thus far miraculously avoided the fate of so many of his relatives, most of whom began showing Alzheimer’s symptoms in their 40s and died by their mid 50s. Now, doctors want to know how Doug was able to resist his own gene mutation and if his resistance might shed light on how to develop drugs that might help others resist the effects of Alzheimer’s.
In the last few years, researchers have found several protective gene mutations, some that can prevent HIV from entering cells and some that significantly reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in a person’s system. Both of these discoveries led to drugs that have helped improve treatments of their respective disorders, which leads scientists to believe that, with Doug Whitney’s help, they may be able to take a similar route with Alzheimer’s medications.
To learn more about this new approach to fighting disease, take a look at this article from the New York Times.