BOSTON — With a lineage rooted in Eastern Europe, Ashkenazi Jews were genetically isolated from their non-Jewish counterparts for centuries. This isolation presents a distinct advantage for genetic studies, as disease-associated variants may be more frequent and thus more significant in this community. With that in mind, researchers from Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine recognized the unique genetic makeup of Ashkenazi Jews and conducted a groundbreaking study to explore Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility in this community. Their findings reveal several genetic risk factors for AD, shedding light on potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for this devastating form of dementia.
Led by Lindsay A. Farrer, Ph.D., the research team conducted a genome-wide association study involving approximately 3,500 Ashkenazi Jewish individuals, revealing both known and novel genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Their findings highlight the increased power of genetic associations in founder populations and provide valuable insights into the biology of AD.
“Our study illustrates the greatly increased power for detection of genetic associations in communities like Ashkenazi Jews who trace their lineage to a relatively small group of ancestors. In such communities, disease-associated variants may be much more frequent compared to samples ascertained from large, mixed populations,” Dr. Farrer explains in a university release.
According to the new report, the researchers discovered “several genetic risk factors for AD including some previously known (APOE, TREM2) and several novel ones that are strong biological candidates (RAB3, SMAP2, ZNF890P, SPOCK3, GIPR).”
While some genetic variants identified in Ashkenazi Jews may be rare or absent in other populations, the genes carrying these variants likely play a role in Alzheimer’s biology across diverse populations. The discoveries made in this study have far-reaching implications, as they pave the way for future research on dementia biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets. By unraveling the genetic complexities of Alzheimer’s, scientists hope to develop innovative approaches for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
The study is published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
8 healthy habits that lower Alzheimer’s risk
While scientists work on new drugs to help those displaying symptoms or at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease, there are several drug-free steps you can take to lower your chances of developing Alzheimer’s in the first place.
- Being active
- Eating better
- Losing weight
- Not smoking
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure
- Controlling cholesterol
- Reducing blood sugar
- Getting good quality sleep
“The good news is even for people who are at the highest genetic risk, living by this same healthier lifestyle are likely to have a lower risk of dementia,” Professor Adrienne Tin from the University of Mississippi says in a statement.