BU Study Finds Ashkenazi Jews are More Likely to Suffer from Alzheimer’s
June 1, 2023 – Study author Dr. Lindsay Farrer, and other researchers including Dr. Donghe Li and Dr. John Farrell, had their article, Novel loci for Alzheimer’s disease identified by a genome-wide association study in Ashkenazi Jews, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
Farrer and his colleagues conducted a genome-wide association study for AD in a sample of 3,500 people whose ancestry was almost exclusively Ashkenazi Jewish, including roughly equal numbers of persons with AD and cognitively normal individuals who were identified in a much larger group of EA (European ancestry) participants in large national AD genetics studies using an approach that compared genetic signatures with members of an Ashkenazi Jewish reference sample.
“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,” said Farrer. “In such communities, disease-associated variants may be much more frequent compared to samples ascertained from large, mixed populations”.
Trans-ethnic studies have shown that population differences in genetic background can be leveraged to make novel discoveries that might require a sample size several orders of magnitude larger to achieve similar success studying a single population, according to the study.
“Similarly, studies of small samples from founder populations (ethnic or religious groups whose origins can be traced to a limited number of ancestors and thus have a more homogeneous genetic background) have successfully detected robust and subsequently validated associations of AD with several genes,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers identified 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). Study author Dr. Lindsay Farrer said there are lessons to be learned here about genetic diseases in communities with a smaller gene pool. He said the genes highlighted by the study could be relevant to diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s in other populations.