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October 1996

Genetic Factors for the Development of Alzheimer Disease in the Cherokee Indian

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Neurology (Drs Rosenberg, Honig, and Cullum) and Psychiatry (Drs Weiner, Adams, and Cullum and Ms Svetlik) and the Academic Computing Center (Mr Risser), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; Alzheimer's Disease Research Unit-St John Medical Center and University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tulsa (Drs Richter and Prado-Farmer, Mr Taubman, and Mss Ebalo and Posey); Health Services Division of the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, Okla (Drs Kingfisher and Dean); H. A. Chapman Institute of Medical Genetics, Tulsa, Okla (Dr Schaefer); and the University of Washington Medical Center and the Gerontology Service, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle (Dr Schellenberg).

Arch Neurol. 1996;53(10):997-1000. doi:10.1001/archneur.1996.00550100071017

Objective:  To study the relationship between the genetic degree of Cherokee ancestry, the apolipoprotein E *E4 (APOE*E4) allele type, and the development of Alzheimer disease (AD) in individuals from the Cherokee Nation who reside in northeastern Oklahoma.

Setting:  Alzheimer disease center satellite clinic and university departments of neurology, psychiatry, and academic computing.

Design:  Standardized dementia evaluations based on criteria from the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association were performed on 26 patients aged 65 years or older to establish a diagnosis of AD. Twenty-six control subjects were recruited and similarly assessed. The APOE allele type determinations were obtained on all patients and control subjects. Appropriate statistical analyses were used to compare the genetic degree of Cherokee ancestry, the APOE allele type, and the development of AD.

Results:  The data indicated that as the genetic degree of Cherokee Indian ancestry increased, the representation of AD decreased. The 9 patients with AD with a greater than 50% genetic degree of Cherokee ancestry constituted 35% of the group with AD. The 17 remaining patients with AD who were less than 50% Cherokee constituted 65% of the group with AD. In contrast. 17 (65%) of the control subjects were more than 50% Cherokee; only 9 (35%) were less than 50% Cherokee. These percentages of AD were not changed by the *E4 allele. This inverse relationship between the genetic degree of Cherokee ancestry and AD, independent of the APOE*E4 allele status, diminished with increasing age, suggesting an age-related protective effect of being Cherokee. For a decrease of 10% in Cherokee ancestry, the odds of developing AD are estimated to be 9.00 times greater at age 65 years but only 1.34 times greater at age 80 years.

Conclusions:  A greater genetic degree of Cherokee ancestry reduces the risk of developing AD and, thus, seems protective. This protective genetic factor is independent of APOE allele type and diminishes with age.

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