Genetic testing for the ApoE allele should not be used to aid diagnosis of the sporadic form of Alzheimer's disease, concludes a Stanford University biomedical ethics committee. The E4 variant of the ApoE gene elevates a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's, but many people who do not have it also get the disease, while many individuals with ApoE4 never develop symptoms. Following nearly two years of study, the working group assembled by the Stanford Program in Genomics, Ethics and Society, concluded that the ApoE test offers only a slight gain in the accuracy of diagnosis, and a positive result does not change prognosis or treatment for the patient. What's more, relatives could learn of their own potential risk from a relative's test results, which could impose psychological and social costs. The working group's recommendations were published in a special issue of the journal Genetic Testing, released at the end of May.—Hakon Heimer


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