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Beilinson Hospital study reveals ethnic disparity in early-onset Alzheimer’s

Research found that 64% of diagnoses were from Sephardic Jewish backgrounds while 36% originated from Ashkenazic backgrounds.

Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A groundbreaking study by Beilinson Hospital’s Cognitive Neurology Department has identified a significant ethnic disparity in the prevalence of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The research, which focused on patients who developed Alzheimer’s before the age of 65, found that 64% of diagnoses were from Sephardic Jewish backgrounds while 36% originated from Ashkenazic backgrounds.

Sephardic Jews hail from the Jewish Diaspora in the Iberian Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa, while Ashkenazic Jews have roots in northern and Eastern Europe.

The findings have garnered interest from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has invested more than $13 million in an expanded study to be completed by Beilinson, the Boston University School of Medicine and three other collaborating medical centers in Israel furthering its research in the hopes that it will lead to a potential revolutionizing of early detection methods, drug development and overall patient care.

Beilinson’s Cognitive Neurology Department first embarked on the study in 2017 after identifying a trend of ethnic disproportionality in younger patients suffering from dementia. The clinic’s meticulous analysis of hundreds of patient records unveiled a stark contrast in Alzheimer’s prevalence between non-Ashkenazic and Ashkenazic Jews.

The next stage will see the department collaborate with professor Lindsay A. Farrer from the Boston University School of Medicine, in addition to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and Laniado Hospital in Netanya. Together, they will review another 2,000 cases of Israelis dealing with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease along with 2,000 healthy controls in the hopes of identifying specific genes associated with the disease, enabling earlier detection and targeted interventions.

“We are extremely thankful to the U.S. National Institutes of Health for supporting our efforts, which are likely to change the way we identify and treat Alzheimer’s patients in Israel and across the world,” said Dr. Amir Glik, director of cognitive neurology at Beilinson. “By pinpointing risk factors for Alzheimer’s within non-Ashkenazic populations, we can identify at-risk individuals preemptively and develop treatments to mitigate disease progression, allowing the enhancement of their quality of life, and greater dignity as the disease progresses.”

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