EARLY INTERVENTION: The incidence of Alzheimer's disease continues to rise as the population ages. New techniques to track the disease before symptoms arise may allow for testing of drugs before it's too late. Image: iStockphoto
- The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease continues to rise as the population ages, but effective treatments are lacking.
- Some new drugs may have failed because they were tried too late.
- New techniques to track the disease before symptoms arise may allow testing of drugs at a stage when they may be more effective.
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In his magical-realist masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez takes the reader to the mythical jungle village of Macondo, where, in one oft-recounted scene, residents suffer from a disease that causes them to lose all memory. The malady erases “the name and notion of things and finally the identity of people.” The symptoms persist until a traveling gypsy turns up with a drink “of a gentle color” that returns them to health.
In a 21st-century parallel to the townspeople of Macondo, a few hundred residents from Medellín, Colombia, and nearby coffee-growing areas may get a chance to assist in the search for something akin to a real-life version of the gypsy’s concoction. Medellín and its environs are home to the world’s largest contingent of individuals with a hereditary form of Alzheimer’s disease. Members of 25 extended families, with 5,000 members, develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, usually before the age of 50, if they harbor an aberrant version of a particular gene.
This article was originally published with the title Alzheimer's: Forestalling the Darkness.