Crees, the Cherokee of Oklahoma, the Amish, Nigerians and Japanese people are all attracting the attention of scientists trying to cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Millions of Canadians and Americans have the fatal disease, which destroys the victims’ minds and kills more than 100,000 people a year.

There is no known cure, but scientists are now focusing attention on nations of people who seem to be virtually immune to the disease, like the Crees of Northern Manitoba. In a 1993 study, only one Cree Elder of 200 studied in the villages of Norway House and Nelson House had Alzheimer’s.

That’s a rate of 0.5 per cent In contrast, 3.5 per cent of elderly whites in Winnipeg had the disease.

Scientists believe some peoples may have certain genes or proteins that reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. They are trying to pinpoint those genes and proteins, and then produce medicine from what they learn.

Diet, use of traditional medicine and lifestyle could also play a role. Cree Elders have a chance to transmit knowledge to the youth, which provides the intellectual stimulation that might help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.