Groundbreaking Beilinson Study: Sephardic Jews Have Greater Risk of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Than Ashkenazic

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

Sephardic Jews are those hailing from the Jewish diasporas in the Iberian Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa, while Ashkenazic Jews hail from the Jewish diasporas in Northern and Eastern Europe.

The study has already garnered interest from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has invested more than 13 Million U.S. Dollars in an expanded study that will be completed by Beilinson Hospital, 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 Hospital’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 of the study will see Beilinson Hospital’s Cognitive Neurology Department collaborate with Prof. Lindsay A. Farrer from Boston University School of Medicine in the United States as well as Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and Laniado Hospital in Netanya to review an additional 2,000 cases of Israelis suffering from late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and 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 Beilinson Hospital Director of Cognitive Neurology Dr. Amir Glik. “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.”

As one of Israel’s largest and most prominent medical centers, Beilinson leads the charge in implementing new innovative treatments while maintaining the highest standards of quality medical and nursing care. Since 1936, Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah has grown to serve more than 500,000 patients annually. The 1,300-bed hospital in Central Israel, staffed by a team of 4,500 medical and support professionals, has 37 operating rooms, performs over 70 percent of all organ transplants in Israel, and welcomes more than 9,000 babies into the world through its robust labor and delivery department.

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