Alzheimer’s: Dr Chris discusses the early signs of condition
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The worrying announcement follows the discovery of an ultra-rare gene mutation linked to the early onset of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia and symptoms of memory loss typically appear in the late 60s. But an international team of researchers based in Sweden has identified an aggressive form of the disease that starts to manifest much earlier.
According to a report in Medical Xpress, the breakthrough was made when the researchers traced the mutation through multiple members of a single family.
The study was prompted by a pair of siblings at Uppsala University Hospital, aged 43 and 40, who were already experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
A close relative of the same age was experiencing very similar symptoms, leading the researchers to investigate a genetic cause for why the family was being affected.
It later emerged the siblings’ father suffered from the same symptoms two decades earlier, also around the age of 40.
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As the disease progressed, the siblings and their cousin struggled to talk and perform simple maths.
The researchers have since named this form of Alzheimer’s the Uppsala APP deletion and described it in the journal Science.
The study’s authors wrote: “Here, we describe the Uppsala APP mutation, the first reported deletion causing autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
“Affected individuals have an age at symptom onset in their early forties and suffer from a rapidly progressing disease course.”
It is estimated there are presently about 850,000 people suffering from dementia in the UK – although the figure is forecast to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.
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Between 50 and 75 percent of all cases of dementia are linked to Alzheimer’s.
And the UK Alzheimer’s Society estimates 209,600 people will develop dementia this year – that is one person every three minutes.
About one in six people over the age of 80 have dementia, and some 42,000 people under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with the syndrome.
The Uppsala APP mutation has so far only been diagnosed in a single family, making it an extremely rare but still worrying threat.
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The new form of Alzheimer’s strikes in the early 40s (Image: GETTY)
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According to the researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, the DNA mutation speeds up the formation of amyloid beta – brain-damaging protein plaques.
When the plaques clump together, they can trigger a process that results in the destruction of neurons in the brain.
Alzheimer’s patients, consequently, suffer from the loss of memories and cognitive functions.
However, research is still underway to better understand how these protein plaques damage the brain.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr María Pagnon de la Vega, the new form of Alzheimer’s is passed on from one generation to the next.
Luckily, there is no data yet to suggest the APP mutation is being carried by any other family in Sweden.
Here in the UK, the total cost of caring for people with dementia is estimated to be about £34.7billion.
It is, however, estimated the costs will sharply increase to £94.1billion by 2040.
Experts fear the rising number of dementia cases worldwide will put a strain on the global economy.