The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

What is Genetic Testing

In genetic testing, researchers take a small sample of blood or tissue and examine the DNA strands to look for specific kinds of genes.  

For example: to date several genes have been associated with heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease and genetic testing can determine whether an individual carries those genes.  

Genetic testing is not always foolproof; in a small percentage of cases, the testing may give the wrong answer.  Additionally, the tests can only look for genes that have already been identified by science.  

For example: we know that there are several genes associated with Alzheimer’s – but just because a person’s genetic test comes up “clean” for those genes, that doesn’t mean that there might not be other genes, that haven’t yet been identified, that are also associated with Alzheimer’s.  

For this reason, persons considering genetic testing are usually encouraged to consult a genetic counselor, who can help decide whether genetic testing is worthwhile in a particular case, and help the patient and family interpret and deal with the results.

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by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain