If you had a family history of developing Alzheimer’s disease, would you take a genetic test that would give you more information about your chances? There were affirmative answers from Gloria VanAlstine, 60, and Joyce Smith, 79, two women took a controversial genetic test of a gene called Apolipoprotein E. APOE is a susceptibility gene where certain variants have been found to significantly increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Both women have a family history of Alzheimer’s, which increases risk. The genetic test was conducted as part of the Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s disease Stud, a series of clinical trials taking place at U-M School of Public Health, with other sites including Harvard University, Howard University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
APOE testing is controversial in the medical community because the variant is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause Alzheimer’s disease. This limitation, along with a general lack of treatment options for Alzheimer’s, has raised concerns that the genetic information could burden rather than benefit patients.
There have been numerous consensus statements and articles against using APOE genotyping for predicting Alzheimer’s risk. However, most of the study participants who took the test, including VanAlstine and Smith, wanted to learn about their APOE test results and were not overtly distressed by them, said Scott Roberts, associate professor in U-M SPH, and co-principal investigator of REVEAL, along with Robert Green at Harvard University School of Medicine.
The National Society of Genetic Counselors and American