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Am J Hum Genet. 1999 Mar;64(3):832-8.

Identifying families with likely genetic protective factors against Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Elderly individuals who lived beyond the age of 90 years without dementia were hypothesized to have increased concentrations of genetic protective factors against Alzheimer disease (AD), conferring a reduced liability for this disease relative to less-aged nondemented elderly. However, testing this hypothesis is complicated by having to distinguish such a group from those who may lack genetic risk factors for AD, have had protective environmental exposures, or have escaped dementia for other reasons. Probands carrying genetic protective factors, however, should have relatives with lower illness rates not only for earlier-onset disease, when genetic risk factors are a strong contributing factor to the incidence of AD, but also for later-onset disease, when the role of these factors appears to be markedly diminished. AD dementia was assessed through family informants in 6,660 first-degree relatives of 1,049 nondemented probands aged 60-102 years. The probands were grouped by age (60-74, 75-89, and 90-102 years), and the cumulative survival from AD and 10-year-age-interval hazard rates of AD were calculated in their first-degree relatives. Cumulative survival from AD was significantly greater in the relatives of the oldest proband group (aged 90-102 years) than it was in the two younger groups. In addition, the reduction in the rate of illness for this group was relatively constant across the entire late life span. The results suggest that genetic factors conferring a lifelong reduced liability of AD may be more highly concentrated among nondemented probands aged >/=90 years and their relatives. Efforts to identify protective allele-bearing genes that are associated with very late-onset AD should target the families of nonagenarians and centenarians.

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