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Health Information A Family Affair: Late Onset Alzheimer's Disease

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is participating in a National Institutes of Health study to discover the genes responsible for Alzheimer's disease. The goal of the study is to create a large bank of genetic material, cell lines, and data from families with multiple members with late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

The bank, called the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Initiative, will distribute data and biological materials free of charge to qualified investigators. The initiative hopes to recruit 1000 families from across the country for this important effort.

"Study volunteers will be critical to helping us find out what genes are involved in late-onset Alzheimer's disease," says David Bennett, MD, director of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "Knowing what genes are involved will help illuminate the underlying processes of Alzheimer's disease and help lead to novel ways to prevent the development and progression of the disease."

Scientists have identified one risk factor gene and have drawn significantly closer to identifying at least four regions of chromosomes where other risk factor genes might be. Further collection and analysis of larger sample sets are needed to root out these genes.

"Just a few years ago the most advanced genetic scan technology could only examine a few hundred base pairs of the human genome. Current technology can examine about 2 million base pairs," says Bennett. "As a result, the opportunities to identify new genetic markers for Alzheimer's disease have increased at a staggering rate."

For a family to participate there must be at least two living first-degree relatives who have had Alzheimer's disease and one living first-degree relative over the age of 60 who has no memory concerns. Participation involves a neurological examination and the donation of a blood sample. Demographic and family history will also be collected. Other unaffected family members also may be asked to participate.

The blood sample will be made into a cell line (a family of cells grown in the laboratory) that enables the participant's DNA to be available to qualified scientists over many years. The cell lines and DNA will be stored at a centralized bank at the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer's Disease at Indiana University, which is to serve as the first point of contact for people interested in participating in the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Initiative.

There is no cost for those who join the study. To ensure broad participation, study coordinators will make alternative arrangements for participation if people eligible to take part are not located near a designated study site.

The local effort is part of a nationwide consortium of leading Alzheimer's disease researchers supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and coordinated by Dr. Richard Mayeux, co-director of the Columbia University Alzheimer's Center in New York City. Rush University Medical Center is one of twelve Alzheimer's Disease Centers participating.

To learn how to participate in the study, contact Rush study coordinator Janie Urbanic at 312-942-8264 or the NIA's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center at 1-800-438-4380 or by email to

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • To learn more about care at Rush for people with Alzheimer's disease, visit the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center home page.
  • For information on medical services for older adults, visit the Geriatric Services home page. Or call (800) 757-0202.
  • To learn more about our a free health and aging membership program for older adults and the people who care for them, visit the Rush Generations home page. Or call (800) 757-0202. Rush Generations can help you with your goals for vital, healthy living.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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