|About the Book|
In the late 1800s, in the Ukrainian town of Ekaterinoslav, Hannah, a woman only in her forties, began suffering from progressive memory loss and eventually became unable to care for herself. What seemed an isolated incident remained unexplained atMoreIn the late 1800s, in the Ukrainian town of Ekaterinoslav, Hannah, a woman only in her forties, began suffering from progressive memory loss and eventually became unable to care for herself. What seemed an isolated incident remained unexplained at her death in the 1890s. Years later, Hannahs grandson Charles, a physician, spurred by his painful observations that many members of his family were all suffering from the same disease, began charting the familys medical history over five generations. In 1985, when this pedigree-one of the most extensive of its kind-fortuitously fell into the caring hands of neurologist Dr. Dan Pollen, Hannahs family would find themselves immersed in one of the most enduring scientific searches of the century-the quest for the Alzheimers disease genes. In Hannahs Heirs, Dr. Pollen himself tells the compelling story of Hannahs family and their monumental contributions to the fight against Alzheimers. We are there in 1985 when Charles presents Pollen with three decades worth of family medical records as well as data from studies that even Pollen and his associates did not then know existed.- We see the selfless acts of Hannahs descendants in their struggle against Alzheimers: great-grandson Jeffs conviction that after his death his brain be used for all possible research- great-granddaughter Lucys decision to overcome her dread of flying in order to reach the research centre for testing- and Charless continued research in the face of a disease that might strike him at any moment. Pollen sets this gripping story within the larger context of the efforts to solve the mysteries of Alzheimers. He presents the foundations of modern genetic research, from Gregor Mendels classic discovery of genes, to Alois Alzheimers work on the brains of presenile dementia victims, to Watson and Cricks double helix model for the structure of DNA. He narrates the latter-twentieth century efforts of scientists to systematically narrow down the causes of Alzheimers: Carlton Gajduseks research excluding slow viruses as a cause of Alzheimers- and the stunning success of Peter St. George- Hyslops group in Toronto in September 1992 in decisively linking Alzheimers in Hannahs family to chromosome 14.- At the same time, Pollen offers a penetrating look at the ongoing conflicts involved in scientific research, revealing how intense competition for prestige and funding has driven some scientists to hoard precious cell lines. These practices have impeded efforts to discover both the causes and the treatment of Alzheimers in the shortest possible time. As Hannahs great-grandson Ben has written, This is a story that had to be told. Aspirations were transcendent, but because it involved people it could not be told without tears. Written by a physician-scientist who has been a central figure in the study of familial Alzheimers, Hannahs Heirs is an inspiring portrait of the efforts of a courageous family to confront and overcome a personal biological Holocaust, and an encouraging look at the advances in science that have created the basis for the eventual understanding and treatment of Alzheimers disease. And for those who have seen the horrors of Alzheimers, for all who fear the aging process that will take its toll on everyone, here is an inside look at one of the great medical detective stories of our time.