Several people on Facebook have mentioned a New York Times article about Doug Whitney, a Port Orchard man who has a gene mutation that (in most people) causes early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Whitney, 65, has yet to show symptoms, and researchers are trying to figure out why.
Whitney’s mother and nine of her siblings, as well as Whitney’s older brother died of the disease. All began showing symptoms in their 40s.
“So Mr. Whitney has become Exhibit A in a new direction in genetics research. After years of looking for mutations that cause diseases, investigators are now searching for those that prevent them,” the article states.
The idea of beneficial gene mutations is getting plenty of attention from the scientific community.
Two Seattle researchers have started “The Resilience Project,” drawing on large databases to find people, like Whitney, who seem to have protective genes. They found Whitney after contacting Washington University (in St. Louis), where a study is under way of families with a gene, presenilin, that causes early Alzheimer’s. Whitney joined the study in 2011.
Whitney deferred getting tested for the Alzheimer’s causing gene until he turned 62. Other researchers have contacted him, as well, and Whitney, for his part, is happy to contribute to advancing knowledge of Alzheimer’s, the article states.
So, question for readers: If, based on the medical history of family members, you knew you might have a disease-causing genetic mutation, would you get tested and when?