Researchers have been studying a group of families in Columbia for years due to the fact that they carry a variant of the gene PSEN-1 which pretty much guarantees they will get Alzheimer’s. Many get it at an early age, with a sad story being told by a mother who had to take care of her son who had Alzheimer’s disease. There has been a recent breakthrough, with Aliria Rosa Piedrahita de Villegas, a woman in her 70’s with the gene who did not get Alzheimer’s disease until the age of 72, three decades after most others with the gene get the disease. Further study found that Aliria also had two copies of another rare variant of the APOE gene, also known as the Christchurch variant, which helped protect her brain and drastically slowed the progression of the disease. “This opens a new door for Alzheimer’s research,” said Yakeel Quiroz, an associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “And through that door are new opportunities for treatments,” he said. Quiroz and other researchers are now working on developing an Alzheimer’s treatment that can replicate the protective actions and effects of the Christchurch variant. Regular readers of my blog know that both my grandmother and my father had this terrible disease when they died. There is a great group of people at the Monterey branch of Alzheimer’s Association in Ryan Ranch or you can also call their 24-hour hotline for support at 1-800-272-3900.