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Reagan's Disclosure

November 10, 1994

All Americans must be shaken, and saddened, by news that former President Ronald Reagan is battling with Alzheimer's disease (Nov. 6). And to those feelings, they must add admiration and respect. With characteristic courage, Reagan has openly acknowledged his illness and the burden that it inevitably places on his wife, family and other loved ones.

Unfortunately, this disease still has no effective treatment, and no means of prevention. But to borrow one of President Reagan's favorite metaphors, the dawn of discovery in neuroscience is beginning to lift the darkness of this dread disease. Progress has been so rapid and promising that we may be permitted to hope that some of its first benefits may come in time to lighten Reagan's journey.

Toward the end of 1992, 133 of America's preeminent neuroscientists, under the aegis of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, publicly stated their conviction that, by the year 2000, neuroscience could expect to have discovered the defective genes in familial Alzheimer's disease and have developed new drugs and other measures to alleviate the symptoms of all versions of Alzheimer's. Recent progress strongly confirms their confidence. Just last year, for example, the first major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's was uncovered--the E4 version of the APOE gene. Now that at least one marker for genetic risk has been identified, scientists are able, for the first time, to do comparative studies on people who carry that risk marker, as well as studies within the population of those who already have developed the disease. The ultimate target of this research: discover methods to delay onset of the illness; formulate medications to enable patients to live longer, more functional lives; and perhaps even correct defective genes.

Until that longed-for day, all Americans should pray for the President and his family. He has served us once more.

DAVID MAHONEY, Chairman

Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives

New York

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