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A genetic mutation carried by Basques in Colombia is the cause of the nightmare and the key to hope for a cure

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This article was translated by John R. Bopp

This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned this genetic mutation that has sentenced many of its carriers to develop Alzheimer’s at a very young age.  There is a thin but persistent thread that joins this genetic variant of the disease to the Basques and the current residents of the area around Medellín, Colombia.

This thread, invisible until recently, but very resistant, stems from the Basque migration to South America at the start of the 17th century.  That was when a Basque couple who had decided to make a better lives for themselves arrived.  Three centuries later, almost 5,000 of their descendants, who live in Yamural, Antioquia, Colombia find themselves at the center of a nightmare that ironically might become a key element to fighting one of the diseases that is going to grow the most in the 21st century: Alzheimer’s.

Today, we bring you this complementary piece, because the British Daily Mail has just published an extensive report about these Colombians, their tragedy, and their key role in the study for new therapies to fight against this disease.

In the rural area where they live, about 5,000 descendants of that Basque couple have become the focus of the study into treatments for this disease.

This thorough article tells the tragedy this disease means for its residents, and the hope that this concentration of cases might mean for the development of effective therapies against the disease.

Daily Mail – 5/1/2015 – Great Britain

The village where most residents have dementia by the age of FORTY: Genetic mutation and marrying within families means the ‘Yarumal curse’ is spiralling out of control

Plaza de Yamural (Antioquia-Colombia)
Plaza in Yamural (Antioquia-Colombia)

In a picturesque village in the Andes mountains, an 82-year-old woman is putting her middle aged children into nappies. Mrs Cuartas, who lives in a small village called Yarumal, in Colombia, is forced to take care of her three children despite being an old woman herself. Her children have been afflicted with the village’s curse: something they called ‘La Bobera’: the foolishness. The curse means many of the village’s 5,000 residents have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to Alzheimer’s disease – and most develop the condition by the time they are just 40 years old.

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