Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?


After a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a common question among family members concerns the heritability of the disease. Current research reports that in some cases, it can be genetically inherited - but it is rare. Scientists who study the genetics of Alzheimer’s distinguish between “familial Alzheimer’s disease,” which runs in families, and “sporadic Alzheimer’s disease,” where no obvious inheritance pattern is seen. Most Alzheimer's patients experience the sporadic form known as late onset Alzheimer's. This form of the disease is not a hereditary disease, from what researchers know.

Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) or early-onset Alzheimer’s is an inherited, rare form of the disease, however it affects less than 10 percent of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

The majority of Alzheimer’s disease cases are late-onset, usually developing after age 65. It is important to reiterate: Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease has no known cause and from what researchers know, this form of this disease shows no obvious inheritance pattern.

Dr. Maurizio Grimaldi

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Grimaldi is the Leader of the Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience Laboratory at Southern Research Institute in Alabama and specialized in clinical pharmacology. He is a co-investigator in the NIH-NINDS Drug Screening for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Stroke.

Southern Research Institute

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Researchers do not know the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease, but it is most likely due to a combination of a variety of genetic and other factors. Genetic research is concentrating on the role of heredity -- the transmission of qualities and illnesses from parents to children -- in determining risk for, and development of, Alzheimer's disease.