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Researchers Get NHGRI Funding to Study Effects of Alzheimer's Risk Testing

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Four university research partners are using funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute to provide genetic tests for Alzheimer's disease risk and to consider how participants process that genetic information.

The $600,000 grant to lead institute Brigham and Women's Hospital and to partners at the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and Howard University will fund the next phase of the Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer's Disease (REVEAL) Study. REVEAL is an ongoing series of randomized controlled trials that use empirical data to study the ethical, sociological, and translational issues related to genetic susceptibility testing.

The researchers now are providing a test from Athena Neurosciences for Apolipoprotein e (APOE) and E4 status, genotype predictors for Alzheimer's risk, for participants who are already experiencing mild cognitive impairment. People with mild cognitive impairment are at elevated risk for developing Alzheimer's disease within five years.

The researchers want to learn how these participants and their caregivers respond to health education and genetic testing, and will look specifically at how the information impacts their psychological adjustment or causes any behavioral changes, as well as studying how well they understand the testing and risk assessment materials, University of Michigan Associate Professor Scott Roberts said in a statement Thursday.

These participants, as well as their caregiving partners, will be followed for a year after receiving their risk diagnosis.

To test the impact of the genetic information, all of the participants will receive the educational information about Alzheimer's risk, but only the intervention arm will receive the APOE status tests.

"The difference between this and past REVEAL trials is that we are disclosing results to a more imminently at risk group (people with mild cognitive impairment), along with their potential caregivers (adult child, spouse)," Roberts told GenomeWeb Daily News in an e-mail.

Roberts said the investigators will recruit participants through the spring of 2012.

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