It’s a scene that could play out anywhere: four 20-somethings laughing, munching on pizza and chatting about plans to go dancing in Scottsdale.
But this group of young men and women at a Phoenix hospital last weekend were far from carefree. They know they each may possess a genetic ticking time bomb that has robbed generations of family members in their homeland of Medellin, Colombia.
The Colombians arrived in Arizona last weekend to participate in a medical study of their extended family of 5,000 with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease.
Those who carry the rare inherited genetic mutation are destined to get the mind-robbing disease, most likely beginning in their 40s.
They are part of a bold experiment conducted by Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and doctors in Colombia that seeks to find ways to identify and treat people who will develop the disease before the first signs of memory loss.
Arizona scientists anticipate the Colombian experiment will open the door to a large Arizona-based study that seeks to halt Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest stages. The U.S. study will target adults who carry a certain gene that puts them at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The study could lead to the possibility of giving disease-scuttling drugs to Americans in their 50s and 60s, before their first memory problems emerge.