A BABY WHO WILL NEVER GET ALZHEIMER’S
That’s the hope of his parents, who spent nearly RM170,000 on a new treatment to protect him
When Jim’s mother died of early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 61, it was a wake-up call. “The disease has hit every generation of my family,” says Jim, a software engineer. (He and his wife requested anonymity.) “I thought, ‘If there’s anything we can do to prevent this from happening to our kids, we should do that.’”
Turns out there is. Jim, 36, learned that he could be tested for gene mutations that cause early-onset Alzheimer’s. Through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), he and his wife, Melissa, could then screen their embryos and implant one that lacked mutations.
The decision to do these “pre-implantation genetic diagnostics” was agonising. “You realise that once you know the information, you can’t unknow it,” Melissa says. But they proceeded. Jim tested positive for the presenilin 1 mutation.
“It’s pretty intense to be told you’ll get Alzheimer’s in 15 years,” he says. “I’ve always planned life assuming it was going to happen, but there’s something different about it being definitive.”
Three of the couple’s viable embryos lacked mutations. The first one doctors implanted in Melissa didn’t take, but the second one did, and the couple now has a healthy 14-monthold son.
Genetic analysis is available for a suite of diseases, says Svetlana Rechitsky,
Ph.D., of Reproductive Genetic Innovations, the company that did Jim and Melissa’s screening.
Jim and Melissa know their son isn’t immune to Alzheimer’s, because lifestyle factors are involved; but they feel fortunate that they’ve been provided with the opportunity to reduce the odds in their family tree.