Doris Crouse, from northeastern Alabama, is part of a unique genetic line in which Alzheimer's disease has affected an alarming 50 percent of her extended family.
"They are doing a study on the Chastain blood, because we have an extra Alzheimer's gene," Crouse says. "They're trying to find a cure and think it's real possible it could be in our blood. They say we're the only family in America who has this extra gene and there are only two other families in the world who do." (source)
Dr. Allan Levey, chair of the Department of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and director of Emory's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, has been studying the genetics of the Chastain family tree and getting to know its family members for over 20 years as a part of this very focused study.
Levey says the key to potentially finding a cure is the studying of families prone to early-onset Alzheimer's; in these families, the disease commonly sets in during a person's 30s, 40s, or 50s. In these family-specific cases, the disease never skips generations and 50 percent of children are affected.
Though families like this account for less than 1 percent of Alzheimer's patients, Levey asserts that these families have led to the identification of three specific genes that cause Alzheimer's—unlike patients who are diagnosed with the disease at an older age, where genes are not the cause.
Read more: Alabama family part of Alzheimer's Disease study: 'The cure could be in our blood'