Would You Want to Know If You’ll Get Alzheimer’s?
Tests for a specific gene can indicate elevated risk of the disease. But would you really want to know that you may get it?
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.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.