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Genetics: Once Shunned, Test For Alzheimer's Risk Headed To Market

Publication Date: 
February 22, 2008
Science Magazine
Jennifer Couzin
Professor Henry T. "Hank" Greely is quoted in Science about genetic testing for Alzheimer's disease:

... “I think the benefits [of knowing your genotype] are trivial” and don’t justify the emotional risks, says law professor Henry Greely of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who in 1997 co-chaired a working group on Alzheimer’s genetic testing. The group concluded that genetic testing for Alzheimer’s “is not appropriate for most people.”

Greely says his views have shifted only slightly in favor of testing. He thinks knowing the results might help the roughly 2% of the population with the worst APOE combination: two copies of the deleterious E4 allele, which together confer a roughly 15 times increased risk of the disease. For them, Greely says, the risk is so great that the information may be useful in planning health care needs or retirement.

But a much larger portion of the population, about 25%, carries one copy of APOE4; their risk of Alzheimer’s is roughly three times higher than normal. Greely doesn’t think these people need to know their APOE status,...