The study of the human genome and the potential for routine genetic testing down the road has brought many hotly debated topics to the table. If your genetic make-up predisposed you for a certain disease whether it is cancer or Alzheimer’s, would you want to know?
A study published in the August edition of the Archives of Neurology may bring us closer to having to ask ourselves these tough questions. The study measured a specific protein known to be present in those with Alzheimer’s and looked at the amounts of this protein in the cerebrospinal fluid of individuals with Alzheimer’s, those with mild cognitive impairment, and those having normal cognitive function. Without knowing the clinical diagnosis of the individuals being studied, the detection of this protein was accurately able to classify which individuals had Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment and was able to show the presence of this protein even in those who had normal cognitive function, suggesting that it could be detected prior to showing symptoms (1).
The question becomes if you had the option to know you might have a disease despite having no symptoms and despite the fact that treatment options may only slow the disease versus curing it, would you want to know?
- De Meyer G, Shapiro F, Vanderstichele H, Vanmechelen E, Engelborghs S, De Deyn PP, Coart E, Hansson O, Minthon L, Zetterberg H, Blennow K, Shaw L, Trojanowski JQ; for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Diagnosis-Independent Alzheimer Disease Biomarker Signature in Cognitively Normal Elderly People. Arch Neurol. 2010 Aug;67(8):949-956.