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Scientist finds genetic clues to Alzheimer's, establishes DNA bank for future studies

Tiny flaws have been found on three chromosomes in patients with the most common type of Alzheimer's disease by a researcher at the Medical College of Georgia.

These flaws pave the way for discovery of the genes responsible for late-onset Alzheimer's, in which symptoms begin after age 65, and lead to better ways to diagnose and treat the devastating disease, said Dr. Shirley E. Poduslo, neuroscientist.

Dr. Poduslo found the flaws studying DNA donated by Texas families affected by late-onset Alzheimer's while she was director of basic research for the Department of Neurology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. Her research is published in the December issue of the British journal NeuroReport.

Now Dr. Poduslo, who joined the MCG faculty in November, has established a similar DNA bank for patients and their families from throughout Georgia and South Carolina to enable future studies.

"If you live to be 65, you have a 5 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Poduslo said. "If you live to be 85, you have a 50 percent chance. If you have a family history, there is an increased risk, no doubt about it," she said of the disease that affects about 4 million Americans today with a health care tab of $80 billion. "As our baby boomers age and retire, we are going to have a national crisis on our hands."

In Texas she enrolled nearly 500 patients, including 15 large, extended families, in her state-funded DNA bank. She was overwhelmed by the response of Texans. "It's something the families can do and it's something that is not difficult for them to do," Dr. Poduslo said of the process of collecting family histories, patients' medical records and blood. She's hoping for a similar response from Georgians and South Carolinians so that work to uncover the genetics of late-onset disease - which accounts for about 95 percent of Alzheimer's - can continue.

"We have really good evidence now that even late-onset
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mail.mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
7-Jan-2002


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