The Role of Genomics in Preventing and Treating Memory DisordersDec 30, 2022 10:01AM ● By Alicia McKelvey
Dementia is currently the fifth leading cause of death in those aged 65 and older, with Alzheimer’s disease being the leading cause of dementia. Research in the emerging field of genomics suggests our genes may not only hold clues about risks of developing memory disorders, but may also provide valuable information to help determine options for prevention and treatment.
Genomics is the study of gene variants or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within our genome or DNA. The alteration of a gene may have an impact on the individual or it may not, depending on the person’s complete profile. Think about it like this: if a single word is changed in a recipe, such as “bake” being changed to “boil”, the end result may taste the same or it may be completely changed. Knowing that someone has specific variants is not a guarantee of a particular health outcome, but can aid the individual and healthcare team in making decisions to prevent or reverse health issues.
There are estimated to be more than 3 million variants in the human genome, but only about 900 have been researched to date. When it comes to memory, genomic researchers estimate there are at least 200 genes that can impact the development of dementia. These variants, combined with the many other lifestyle and physical variables affecting brain health (i.e., chronic stress, lack of movement, nutrition, chronic inflammation and others), may alter the course of a specific individual’s brain health.
It is believed that by the time recognizable symptoms of dementia are present, the underlying issues may have been ongoing for 20 years or more. This means there is a lot of time to locate and address potential areas of concern. This is where genomics can be particularly helpful. Genomics can give insight into an individual’s risk for dementia down to the molecular level, helping to create a personalized brain healthcare plan designed to reduce risk and reverse early symptoms. The goal is to discover potential issues early in one’s life, preferably before there is any damage and when there is still time to effect positive change.
Research has determined that the higher the number of variants involved in an individual’s Alzheimer’s development, the earlier the onset of the disease, the faster the disease course and the poorer the therapeutic outcome. Genomic testing gives insight into where the original issues lie, thus guiding proactive care to the root cause of the problem.
Once dementia is diagnosed, there are many options available for treatment, but memory loss is often irreversible. Over 90 percent of patients with dementia are daily users of psychotropic medications aimed at preserving their existing memory function.
Even at the stage when significant memory loss impacts a person’s ability to perform basic tasks, genomics can play an important role, for new research suggests certain variants respond better to specific memory treatment approaches and not at all to others. Pharmacogenomics is an area of study that looks specifically at how individual variants respond, or don’t, to specific categories of pharmaceutical treatments.
Alicia McKelvey, MD is Medical Director of Medicine for Living, in Woodbury, a personalized, precision healthcare clinic using DNA technology to prevent, heal and reverse disease. For more information about genomics or to schedule an appointment for genomic testing, call 203-405-1464 or visit MedicineForLivingCT.com. See ad, page 14.
Medicine for Living is an Integrative Medicine practice whose mission is to help clients achieve optimal health and disease prevention. Using powerful genomic tools, we are able to help p... Read More »