Chastain family reunites, learns about Alzheimer's disease

More than 100 descendents of original Middle Tennessee settler Pierre Chastain met in Lebanon, Tennessee, for a family reunion, but this was more than just an average family reunion. A significant number of members of the Chastain family – have for years – developed dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no explanation why, but scientists at Emory University are studying the family to try to find the defective genome in their DNA.

After an hour-long presentation by Dr. Thomas Wingo, a researcher studying the Chastain family and a faculty member in the PBEE program, members of the family gave blood to have themselves tested for a research study he and other researchers are conducting. At the end of the study, they will publish a paper on the family and subject. Not only have some members donated blood, some deceased members with Alzheimer’s have donated their brains to study.

Top researcher and NS faculty member, Dr. Allan Levey at Emory’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center believes studying the Chastain family’s genetics could lead to breakthroughs in the field. For more than a decade Levey and his research team at Emory have studied descendants of Pierre Chastain because of the astonishingly high rate which they develop the disease. Alzheimer’s affects 50 percent or more of the family, which, after 10 generations, has branched into north Georgia, including Pickens, Alabama and the Carolinas. The family study is especially important, Levey said, because the Chastains develop the more common late-onset Alzheimer’s – just like 90 percent of all people who develop the disease.

Click here to view the full story in the Lebanon Democrat.