Neuroarchaeologists Uncover Iberian Origin of Unusual Alzheimer’s Gene Mutation

Alzheimers in IberiaNeuroarchaeologists, a term I haven’t heard before, but one we’ll likely hear into the future.  Genetics, neurology, genealogy, population genetics….they are all becoming intermixed today solving puzzles that are so complex that just a few years ago, there would have been no prayer of solving them at all.

Take early onset Alzheimers, for example.  Keep in mind that this type of Alzheimer’s is only one of several, and much about this disease remains unknown, but for this particular kind of Alzheimer’s disease, this breakthrough is monumental, as is the fact that they can trace it to the Iberian peninsula in the 16th century.

The history of our ancestors truly is in our genes.

This research was performed at the University of California at Santa Barbara and published this month in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.  Unfortunately, the academic article is behind a paywall.

Researchers tested more than 100 family members who have the disease.  While many predictably showed onset signs of the disease as expected about age 45, some appeared to be protected by as much as a decade.  The question was what was protecting these people and does that protective mechanism have relevance for the rest of the people afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease.  The answer isn’t yet evident, and research continues, but the process they used to identify this mutation is fascinating.

The team worked with historians and genealogists and using records as old as 1540, managed to track this family, along with their mutation, to a single individual from the Iberian peninsula about the time that Spanish Conquistadors were colonizing Columbia in the early 1500s.

They may call this new field neuroarchaeology, but I think it’s more neurogenealogy, unless they’re excavating graves someplace.  But I bet they think neuroarchaeology just sounds more scientific.  So, want to get assistance with your genealogy….having a dread disease, or being a politician….either one will help immensely.



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13 thoughts on “Neuroarchaeologists Uncover Iberian Origin of Unusual Alzheimer’s Gene Mutation

  1. This is HUGE! My late mother-in-law died from complications of early onset Alzheimer’s when she had just turned 66. Symptoms began to be recognized and debilitating in her mid-late 50s. Her mother had it. We have seen it in this family in females for the last two generations. Six living sons are at the age when symptoms might be expected to be seen, but so far we have not seen it in any of the sons. Just ten or fifteen years ago we had no hope of knowing whether it had been passed down in the family and debated if we really wanted to know. This is such a cruel disease. After caring for her mother, my late mother-in-law was heard to say that if she thought she was getting Alzheimer’s she would put a gun to her head. This awful disease crept up on her before she realized it. In our part of the world, the genetic testing that we have done so far definitely has our people traveling up through the Iberian Peninsula before reaching our last traditionally known origins. Has the BRAC gene come through the same pathway?

    • Anne,

      I’m not a doctor and I’m out of my league here. But I do know that there are several variants of the BRCA gene, the worst of which is found in the Jewish population. I don’t believe it’s the same pathway, either geographically or genetically. However, having said that, this is where testing and a genetic counselor could be useful. You might want to purchase the academic paper to begin with and go from there.

  2. Or having enough fame or money to get you on a television show!! Looking forward to the day this terrible disease can be managed and eventually eliminated. I lost my beloved grandfather and many of his siblings and it was devastating.

  3. I would agree with your comment about the research being more “neurogenealogy” rather than “neuroarchaeologist”. As an archaeologist I certainly didn’t see any evidence of any actual archaeology in the research. I suppose they were possibly being metaphorical with the term though. Still, I like yours better.

  4. Pingback: DNAeXplain Archives – General Information Articles | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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