The Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease and the Ethical Implications for Prevention

  • P. McGuffin
  • M. Sargeant
  • G. Weppner


Senile dementia of the Alzheimer type is probably the commonest form of dementing illness after the age of 65 years in most western populations. The classical presenile form of Alzheimer’s disease is considerably less common but it is again among the most frequent causes of cognitive decline in late middle age. Since the presenile and senile forms show the same characteristic histopathology, they are now both often referred to simply as Alzheimer’s disease’ (AD). Both types tend to show familial aggregation and this seems to be particularly marked in early onset cases. Despite the consistency of reports of familiality and despite recent improvements in the understanding of the neuropathology and neurochemistry of AD, the precise aetiology remains a puzzle. This would doubtless be a disappointment to Alzheimer, who described AD and its typical neuropathological lesions in 1907, not long after his head of department, Kraepelin (1922), had effected his famous separation of the psychoses of adult life into dementia praecox and manic depressive insanity. Both men believed that they had classified conditions with a constitutional basis but only Alzheimer had clear neuropathological evidence on his side. More than 80 years on, the three conditions continue to present major challenges for genetic research and for therapeutic endeavour but, if anything, AD is the most aetiologically enigmatic and the most difficult to treat.


Genetic Counselling Alzheimer Type Senile Dementia Predictive Testing Paired Helical Filament 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. McGuffin
  • M. Sargeant
  • G. Weppner

There are no affiliations available

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