What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Would You Want to Know If You’ll Get Alzheimer’s?

December 15, 2010, 12:13 AM
Genes

James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, was the second person to have his genome sequenced.  He found out lots of details about his genetic susceptibility to various diseases, but one thing he didn't want to know was whether he had a serious risk of getting Alzheimer’s.

“I think it is a very personal decision," said Dr. Juan Troncoso of the Johns Hopkins Alzheimer's Disease Research Center during Big Think's recent Breakthroughs: Alzheimer's panel discussion. "Some people may not want to do it. Others who are very practical for planning reasons may want to do it.”

There isn’t a single gene that causes Alzheimer’s disease, yet the gene Apolipoprotein E (APoE) has been implicated as a risk factor for the disease.  People with APoE E4—a version of the gene with an E4 allele—are three to eight times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with a different ApoE allele (E2 or E3).  The E4 allele is present in about 25 to 30 percent of the population.  Importantly, having ApoE E4 doesn't automatic mean a sentence of Alzheimer's disease, and many people with the disease do not have the allele.  Yet, as genetic testing becomes more common, APoE will be where genetic tests look for the risk of this debilitating disease that currently doesn't have a cure.

Dr. Leonard Guarente of the Glenn Laboratory for the Science of Aging at MIT sees little reason for testing without being able to do something about it.  “I would like to know about risk for any disease that can be treated, but for a disease for which there is really no treatment I would rather not know,” he says.

“There is one more twist to this,” says Dr. Tronocoso, “If for some reason you’re going to have a child and you may want to know whether you have a gene that will increase the risk in them.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user jurvetson

The views expressed here are solely those of the participants, and do not represent the views of Big Think or its sponsors.

 

Would You Want to Know If Y...

Newsletter: Share: