Photo by TPS on 16 March, 2018

Study Reveals Ethnic Disparity in Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Public By Pesach Benson • 3 April, 2024

Jerusalem, 3 April, 2024 (TPS) -- An Israeli study has revealed a significant ethnic gap in the prevalence of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, raising the potential for revolutionizing early-detection methods, drug development and patient care, the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah said on Wednesday.

The research, which centered on individuals developing Alzheimer’s before the age of 65, discovered that 64 percent of cases were from Sephardic Jewish backgrounds, with the remaining 36 percent originating from Ashkenazic backgrounds.

Sefardi Jews trace their ancestry to the Jewish diasporas in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa and the Middle East. Ashkenazic Jews come from Northern and Eastern Europe.

Symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s are similar to those of late-onset Alzheimer’s and may include memory loss, difficulty with problem-solving and planning, confusion, and changes in behavior or personality. However, because the disease occurs at a younger age, it can pose unique challenges for both individuals and their families, including difficulties with diagnosis, employment and accessing appropriate care and support services.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s can develop in people as young as in their 30s or 40s, though this is rare. An estimated five percent of people with Alzheimer’s develop symptoms before turning 65.

The Beilinson findings have already attracted attention from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has allocated over $13 million towards an expanded research initiative. This initiative will be carried out by Beilinson Hospital,the Boston University School of Medicine, and three other Israeli medical centers.

They will review an additional 2,000 cases of Israelis suffering from late-onset Alzheimer’s disease alongside 2,000 healthy controls. The goal is to identify specific genes associated with the disease, enabling earlier detection and targeted interventions.

Beilinson’s Cognitive Neurology Department initiated the study in 2017 after observing an ethnic disproportionality trend among younger patients suffering from dementia. Thorough examination of hundreds of patient records revealed a stark contrast in Alzheimer’s prevalence between Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazic Jews.

“We are extremely grateful to the U.S. National Institutes of Health for their support. Our efforts are likely to transform the way we identify and treat Alzheimer’s patients in Israel and worldwide,” said Dr. Amir Glik, Director of Beilinson’s Cognitive Neurology Dept.

“By identifying risk factors within non-Ashkenazic populations, we can preemptively identify at-risk individuals and develop treatments to mitigate disease progression, thereby enhancing their quality of life and dignity as the disease advances,” he said.