Hannah's Heirs: The Quest for the Genetic Origins of Alzheimer's Disease / Edition 1

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Overview

The internationally acclaimed story of Hannah's Heirs now resumes in this updated paperback edition with the discovery in June, 1995 of Hannah's gene—now known to account for the majority of mutations causing early onset familial Alzheimer's disease—and the equally important identification of the major genetic risk factor rendering increased susceptibility to the more frequently occurring late-onset Alzheimer's. With these recent discoveries, medical science is now poised to reach for an understanding of the causes of the various forms of Alzheimer's disease which, in turn, will inevitably lead to rational attempts to treat and prevent Alzheimer's. This fascinating medical detective story of modern science's promising assault on "the disease of the century" continues to unfold with suspense and to inform and inspire through the final word.
In Hannah's Heirs, neurologist Dr. Dan Pollen himself tells the compelling story of Hannah's family and their monumental contributions to the fight against Alzheimer's. We are there in 1985 when Charles presents Pollen with three decades' worth of family medical records as well as data from studies that even Pollen and his associates did not then know existed. We see the selfless acts of Hannah's descendants in their struggle against Alzheimer's: great-grandson Jeff's conviction that after his death his brain be used for all possible research; great-granddaughter Lucy's decision to overcome her dread of flying in order to reach the research center for testing; and Charles's continued research in the face of a disease that might strike him at any moment.
Pollen sets this gripping story within the larger context of the efforts to solve the mysteries of Alzheimer's. He presents the foundations of modern genetic research, from Gregor Mendel's classic discovery of genes, to Alois Alzheimer's work on the brains of presenile dementia victims, to Watson and Crick's double helix model for the structure of DNA. He narrates the latter-twentieth-century efforts of scientists to systematically narrow down the causes of Alzheimer's: Carlton Gajdusek's research excluding slow viruses as a cause of Alzheimer's; and the stunning discovery of Peter St. George-Hyslop's group in Toronto in June, 1995 identifying Hannah's gene and thereby opening a new era in understanding the origins of Alzheimer's disease. At the same time, Pollen offers a penetrating look at the ongoing conflicts involved in scientific research, revealing how intense competition for prestige and funding has driven some scientists to hoard precious cell lines. These practices have impeded efforts to discover both the causes and the treatment of Alzheimer's in the shortest possible time.
As Hannah's great-grandson Ben has written, "This is a story that had to be told. Aspirations were transcendent, but because it involved people it could not be told without tears." Written by a physician-scientist who has been a central figure in the study of familial Alzheimer's, Hannah's Heirs is an inspiring portrait of the efforts of a courageous family to confront and overcome a "personal biological Holocaust," and an encouraging look at the advances in science that have created the basis for the eventual understanding and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. And for those who have seen the horrors of Alzheimer's, for all who fear the aging process that will take its toll on everyone, here is an inside look at one of the great medical detective stories of our time.

Written by a physician-scientist who has been a central figure in the study of familial Alzheimer's, this inspiring portrait tells of the efforts of a courageous family to confront and overcome Alzheimer's. An encouraging look at the advances in science that have created the basis for the eventual understanding and treatment of the disease.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pollen excellently melds the histories of genetics and Alzheimer's disease research with his exposition upon [his patient's family] pedigree....Smoothly crafted, well-documented, at times exciting."—Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195106527
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/28/1996
  • Edition description: ENL
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel A. Pollen, M.D., is Professor of Neurology and Physiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 3
Part I Founders
The Life and Death of Hannah 11
Gregor Mendel 17
Alois Alzheimer 21
Part II Into the Wilderness
The Descendants of Hannah and Shlomo 33
Mendel's Heirs 41
Alzheimer's Disease at Midcentury 55
Enter Genetics 59
New Seeds Are Sown 69
No Longer Alone 75
Twin Pillars of Hope 79
A Transmissible Virus? 87
Base Camp, Circa 1980 95
Part III The Ascent
The New Basis for Linkage Maps of the Human Genome 105
The Quest for the Huntington's Disease Gene 119
Charles 131
Peter St. George-Hyslop and the Link to Chromosome 21 135
A Gene for Amyloid 149
A Siege of the Soul 155
Elizabeth W. and the Second Family from Bobruisk 159
A Unity of Heart and Mind 163
Russia Once Again 171
The Twenty-one Pedigrees of Nina Ivanovna Voskresenskaya 175
How Many Genes? 181
The Third Dove Goes Forth 187
Part IV The Path Ahead
Lost Tribes 193
The First Abnormal Gene Is Found 205
New Sightings 219
Mutual Aid as a Factor in Evolution and in Genetic Research 227
Hannah's Heirs 237
Epilogue
Landfall 241
Hannah's Gene 259
Notes 269
References 287
Index 303
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