Few families have been spared the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s. It frustrates those with the disease and family members, physicians and others who care for them.

It is a progressive disease and starts many years before it produces changes in memory loss and other functions. Ideally, the time to treat would be before brain changes become irreversible.

Scientists hope to do just that with the test of a family in Colombia that has a genetically determined form of Alzheimer’s. They will be testing the drug Crenezumab on healthy people, according to a report in Brain in the News, a specialty publication.

The family, more than 5,000 of them, have inherited a genetically determined form of Alzheimer’s. If family members possess the gene, they will develop Alzheimer’s.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the drugmaker Genentech, will involve 300 people. More than 20 drugs were considered. A third of the participants will be given the drug, a third will receive a placebo and 100 from the community who don’t have the mutant gene also will receive a placebo.

This may be the best shot at studying this population, according to Dr. Guy McKhann, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

He said there are similar families in the United States, but the logistics of relatives scattered all over the United States makes it difficult.

“Let’s hope this study works, or at least gives us valuable informatio to apply to the much larger population (about 95 percent) of those with Alzheimer’s Disease without a clear-cut genetic trigger,” Dr. McKhann wrote.

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