CBS News (February 26, 2017): Can Alzheimer's Be Prevented? A Family May Hold the Key

Publication Date: 
Sun, 02/26/2017

The following script is from “The Alzheimer’s Laboratory,” which aired on Nov. 27, 2016, and was rebroadcast on Feb. 26, 2017. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Shari Finkelstein, producer. Nieves Zuberbuhler, associate producer.

Nobel-prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote of a mythical town in the middle of the jungle whose residents suffer from a mysterious affliction that erases their memories. Today, in a region of Colombia called Antioquia, reality appears to be imitating fiction -- in a way that may answer questions for all of us.

As we first reported last fall, Antioquia is home to the largest concentration in the world of people who carry a rare genetic mutation that makes them 100 percent certain to develop Alzheimer’s disease.  And as devastating as Alzheimer’s is anywhere, this is a particularly cruel version -- it strikes when people are in their mid-40s and leads to death about a decade later.  It is a tragic situation, but a perfect scientific laboratory. And it’s now the center of a multimillion dollar, NIH-backed study trying to find out for the first time whether Alzheimer’s disease may be preventable.

These are the Andes Mountains and lush countryside of Antioquia, Colombia, whose capital city, Medellin was once famous for murder and the drug cartel of Pablo Escobar. Today Medellin -- or “Medejin” as it’s pronounced here -- is peaceful.  But for some families here, there’s still a battle going on, a battle against an insidious disease. This family, mother Cecilia, her seven children, and grandchildren, lost its patriarch, Alonso.

Freddie: For me, my father was number one.

Freddie, the oldest, remembers his dad always eager to join in and play with him and his friends.