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Mayo Clinic helps make a big discovery in Alzheimer's research

6:38 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is part of a worldwide team that came upon a big discovery while researching the causes of Alzheimer's disease.

It is the most powerful genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's discovered in the last 20 years.

It could be good news for future generations, and those who deal with the disease now know full well how good this discovery is.

Sarah Mills has been caring for her husband David for three years since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"It's the most frustrating thing I have ever been through in my life," said Mills. "Because you see somebody so active and all of a sudden they can't do anything, they can't talk to you, they can't feed themselves, they can't bathe, they can't do anything."

That is why Mayo Clinic continues to study the disease. Researchers like Dr. Minverva Carrasquillo are excited about a genetic discovery they participated in, finding a different version of a gene in Alzheimer's patients that is rare but potent, the most potent ever found.

"Having this variant gene increases your chances of having the disease three times," said Dr. Minerva Carrasquillo, assistant professor at Mayo.

This gene is rare, found in only 2 percent of Alzheimer's patients, but grouped with other genetic discoveries, it is a new tool to test new drugs and come up with therapies which are not currently available.

"We are hoping that we can develop eventually a therapy that can prevent the disease from even starting. That is the hope," said Carrasquillo.

Mayo neurologist Dr. Neill Graff-Radford says this is a big step in understanding how this disease develops. He is appreciative of the thousands of people who volunteered to be in this critical study.

"In Mayo alone, there were 6,000 persons included in this study to make this discovery," said Graff-Radford. "And thousands of others. They are the unsung heroes."

Karen Allen was pleased to hear about this latest development. Her 58-year-old husband Mike has been in assisted living for five years. Their 16-year-old son has grown up without a father, and so have his two older sisters.

"I think this is wonderful. Any advance towards conquering this disease is wonderful. I see the people that have this disease and it is heartbreaking."

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