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Alzheimer's and the Riddle of Aging

January 19, 1986

Re "USC Professor Probes the Riddle of Aging" by Ursula Vils, Jan. 12: Thank you for your usual excellent coverage on a not very popular subject. However, we all do have to age.

My concern is regarding the remark: "If we eliminate half or even 10% of those with Alzheimer's it could be a tremendous blessing to the future world . . ." (referring to identifying future Alzheimer's victims before birth by amniocentesis).

Well, now, would it? Rita Hayworth and David Niven contributed in their fields. My brother-in-law, a brilliant engineer, worked overseas building dams for Third World countries before he was diagnosed as having this dread disease. His contributions will be enjoyed by many future generations. Also an artist of some renown, his work will be appreciated long after his demise.

It's not preventing those with Alzheimer's to be born that is the pressing need today--it's finding how to prevent the virus from taking hold of those vital brain cells. A report by the BBC in July of 1985 (I believe the work shown on that program was done at London University) related the same cell damage in Alzheimer's disease to that found in diseased sheep brains, and termed "scrape." Is there a connection? Could the food we eat somehow be a contributing factor?

Even more important is that our society protect and help those with Alzheimer's. My brother-in-law was "dumped" once he was no longer a profit-generating employee. With his entire 30 years pension saving plan also dumped on him--as income for that particular year, so that his income tax was enormous--his financial planning was nil. . . . His wife and family face many real financial problems. Being too young for Medicare, and with no medical insurance (he has worked overseas most of his life) where does his family turn?

Thanks for opening up this opportunity to vent the frustrations our family feels.



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