Archive for the ‘Ashkenazi’ Category

Opinion: Why we should be worried about gene-carrier screening – Medical Xpress

August 2, 2017 by Felicity Boardman, The Conversation Credit: gopixa/Shutterstock

The ability to cheaply and quickly sequence entire genomes is changing the way diseases are identified and treated. But it is also likely to change the way we make some of the most important and personal decisions of our lives: how, and with whom, we have children.

Pre-conception genetic screening (testing for “carrier status” before pregnancy) has usually only been available to couples already known to be at risk of a particular disease. Ashkenazi Jews, for example, are most likely to be carriers of the mutated HEXA gene linked to Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal genetic disorder. Screening for the HEXA mutation is therefore recommended for all Ashkenazi Jews planning children. Today, though, genome sequencing is more affordable and accessible than ever before. It is now (at least, technically) possible to screen everyone to find out if they are a carrier of a genetic disease.

These technological changes have triggered increased enthusiasm for carrier screening. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommended that carrier screening be offered to everyone, and at the very least to all pregnant women. Similarly, private companies in the UK are now offering pre-conception screening for large panels of genetic conditions, simultaneously.

It is estimated that the average person carries three to five serious genetic conditions, such as spinal muscular atrophy or cystic fibrosis, so the routine use of pre-conception screening could affect a lot of people and the way they approach relationships.

The “genetic compatability” of a couple is set to become an important consideration for future generations, changing the way relationships are formed. Dating apps, for example, which give users snapshot information about a potential mate, could become places where carrier status is disclosed alongside other notable physical characteristics such as hair and eye colour.

Some of these apps are already emerging one has been dubbed Tinder for Tay-Sachs. Indeed, through the Dor Yeshorim initiative, the Ashkenazi community has long operated an anonymous programme of pre-marital genetic screening for this very purpose.

Unlike an Ashkenazi Jew, who may be more prepared for the news that they are a carrier of Tay-Sachs, research shows that most people who undergo carrier screening are entirely unprepared for a positive result. As most genetic disorders screened for are considered rare, those having the screening will probably have never experienced, or even heard of, the condition they have been found to carry.

Impossible judgement

This lack of experience is significant because research shows that it makes an important difference to the way people make decisions about having a baby with that condition. For example, a recent study my colleagues and I conducted showed that people without prior experience of spinal muscular atrophy took a much dimmer view of the condition than families who live with it. They were also more likely than families with spinal muscular atrophy families to consider termination of an affected pregnancy as acceptable.

This contrast highlights that decisions about whether to introduce pre-conception screening, and which conditions it should be used for, are not as straightforward as they initially appear. What may be a liveable disability to one person, may be an intolerable experience to another. Yet pre-conception genetic screening calls on us to make this impossible judgement before that person is even conceived.

Given the wide variability and unpredictability of genetic disease, it may appear logical to avoid all forms of it as far as current technology allows, anyway. However, the emergence of groups, such as “don’t screen us out”, which lobby against screening for Down’s syndrome, highlight the difficulties that surround such blanket avoidance.

Many people can, and do, live happy and fulfilling lives with a genetic disease. Yet, once introduced on a mass scale, screening programmes can become difficult to refuse. Having a disabled child, when the technology existed to prevent it, could come to be seen as knowingly inflicting that condition on the child.

While personal choice and control are at the heart of the drive towards pre-conception screening, we also need to consider what other choices become closed off by its introduction. Neutralising the genetic gamble does not come without a cost. And, as a society, we need to carefully consider just what sacrifices we are prepared to make for it.

Explore further: What is pre-pregnancy carrier screening and should potential parents consider it?

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Newborn screening is considered to be a “baby’s first test.” Within the first two days of birth, a baby’s heel is pricked to obtain a small amount of blood that is screened for up to dozens of genetic diseases, especially …

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Opinion: Why we should be worried about gene-carrier screening – Medical Xpress

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August 2, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Why we should be worried about gene-carrier screening – The Conversation UK

The ability to cheaply and quickly sequence entire genomes is changing the way diseases are identified and treated. But it is also likely to change the way we make some of the most important and personal decisions of our lives: how, and with whom, we have children.

Pre-conception genetic screening (testing for carrier status before pregnancy) has usually only been available to couples already known to be at risk of a particular disease. Ashkenazi Jews, for example, are most likely to be carriers of the mutated HEXA gene linked to Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal genetic disorder. Screening for the HEXA mutation is therefore recommended for all Ashkenazi Jews planning children. Today, though, genome sequencing is more affordable and accessible than ever before. It is now (at least, technically) possible to screen everyone to find out if they are a carrier of a genetic disease.

These technological changes have triggered increased enthusiasm for carrier screening. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommended that carrier screening be offered to everyone, and at the very least to all pregnant women. Similarly, private companies in the UK are now offering pre-conception screening for large panels of genetic conditions, simultaneously.

It is estimated that the average person carries three to five serious genetic conditions, such as spinal muscular atrophy or cystic fibrosis, so the routine use of pre-conception screening could affect a lot of people and the way they approach relationships.

The genetic compatability of a couple is set to become an important consideration for future generations, changing the way relationships are formed. Dating apps, for example, which give users snapshot information about a potential mate, could become places where carrier status is disclosed alongside other notable physical characteristics such as hair and eye colour.

Some of these apps are already emerging one has been dubbed Tinder for Tay-Sachs. Indeed, through the Dor Yeshorim initiative, the Ashkenazi community has long operated an anonymous programme of pre-marital genetic screening for this very purpose.

Unlike an Ashkenazi Jew, who may be more prepared for the news that they are a carrier of Tay-Sachs, research shows that most people who undergo carrier screening are entirely unprepared for a positive result. As most genetic disorders screened for are considered rare, those having the screening will probably have never experienced, or even heard of, the condition they have been found to carry.

This lack of experience is significant because research shows that it makes an important difference to the way people make decisions about having a baby with that condition. For example, a recent study my colleagues and I conducted showed that people without prior experience of spinal muscular atrophy took a much dimmer view of the condition than families who live with it. They were also more likely than families with spinal muscular atrophy families to consider termination of an affected pregnancy as acceptable.

This contrast highlights that decisions about whether to introduce pre-conception screening, and which conditions it should be used for, are not as straightforward as they initially appear. What may be a liveable disability to one person, may be an intolerable experience to another. Yet pre-conception genetic screening calls on us to make this impossible judgement before that person is even conceived.

Given the wide variability and unpredictability of genetic disease, it may appear logical to avoid all forms of it as far as current technology allows, anyway. However, the emergence of groups, such as dont screen us out, which lobby against screening for Downs syndrome, highlight the difficulties that surround such blanket avoidance.

Many people can, and do, live happy and fulfilling lives with a genetic disease. Yet, once introduced on a mass scale, screening programmes can become difficult to refuse. Having a disabled child, when the technology existed to prevent it, could come to be seen as knowingly inflicting that condition on the child.

While personal choice and control are at the heart of the drive towards pre-conception screening, we also need to consider what other choices become closed off by its introduction. Neutralising the genetic gamble does not come without a cost. And, as a society, we need to carefully consider just what sacrifices we are prepared to make for it.

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Why we should be worried about gene-carrier screening – The Conversation UK

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Are we still in exile? – Arutz Sheva

A rare interview from the archives of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority sheds light on the significance of the Ninth of Av, on which Jews commemorate the destruction of both Holy Temples and a host of other tragedies in Jewish history, for our times.

The interview, with Rabbi Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi, was part of the Tzerufim program which was broadcasted in 1985 on Channel 1 every week after Shabbat.

Rabbi Ashkenazi was among the foremost spiritual leaders of French Jewry in the 20th Century.

Interviewer: Is it still possible to describe in todays age, when 300,000 Israelis have [voluntarily] left Israel, the exile as the most severe of sufferings?

Rabbi Ashkenazi: The Exile is defined by the Sages of Israel as unnatural, abnormal, and for he who feels himself to be healthy, [the Exile] is as difficult as death.

I: Is the Exile over, despite the fact most of the Jews still reside outside of Israel?

RA: The situation of a dispersed nation in foreign lands without its capital city has ceased. And even the situation today of Diaspora Jewry has changed because of the establishment of the State of Israel, [as] now they have a connection to their Nation based in reality. Diaspora Jewry of today is in an anachronistic position: on the one hand, they are the result of the Second Temple exile which yearned for redemption, while on the other hand, the Third Temple is already starting to be rebuilt in our day. Therefore, a Jew who leaves the State of Israel today is a bit more connected to Israel than one who never moved to Israel in the first place, since he is the [true] Diaspora of the State of Israel. Diaspora Jewry needs to repair its relationship with the State of Israel – and it may take time, since we are in a transition period.

I: Even so, werent there good periods when Jews resided outside of Israel (like the Golden Age in Spain)? Is all that considered Exile?

RA: There are periods of Exile, such as under Joseph in Egypt, which it is possible to call good. But every good period in exile, without exception, ends with destruction. Whoever looks at the post -Biblical period sees the constant failure, as if theres some sort of fatalism; We dont know how to pull ourselves from the external world at the right moment. A historical law is very dangerous. We need to be aware of consequences.

I: If failure in exile is a historical law, how can we change the law?

RA: What is the source of the [law]? There is a certain tendency in our identity towards the universality of the external world, which explains the pull of exile. In our forefathers, this was a good trait. But in their descendants, this universalism reveals itself as cosmopolitanism, a doubt about the uniqueness of the Jewish People.

I: Is there an element of similarity between our generation and previous ones?

RA: We are in a very similar period to that of the beginning of the Second Temple period. Also in that period, the Jewish people was in its land, and there was also a Diaspora community from the First Temple exile which did not return in the period of Ezra and Nehemia. So the question today is, What is the nature of the connection between the Diaspora of then and the State of today? Are we at the beginning of a process [like what we saw in the Second Temple period] and heading for a crisis, or at the end of the crisis?

History can only go on for so long. We had two thousand years of exile, and all of a sudden something completely different, so Im optimistic.

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Young Israeli Man Charged With Lethal Stabbing at Party Over Money – Haaretz

Indictment says victim, 24, hit accused in head with bottle, then accused, 21, pulled knife and killed him during Haifa party

A 21-year-old man has been indicted for stabbing another man to death during a party in the Elyakim forest in northern Israel in June.

Manslaughter charges were filed against Tiran Zazan of the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata, who allegedly stabbed the victim, Moshe Ashkenazi, 24, of Migdal Haemek in a quarrel over money that Mizrahi owed Zazan.

According to the indictment filed in Haifa District Court, the two men knew each other, and a few weeks earlier had begun to quarrel over money. Zazan allegedly threatened Ashkenazi on various occasions that he would hurt him if he didnt repay the debt.

The indictment states that the two ran into each other at the party, and Zazan asked Ashkenazi about the money. When Ashkenazi said he wouldnt give it to Zazan, the latter said he would not leave without it. At some point Zazan and a friend, who is a minor, moved away from Ashkenazi and began talking to each other. The indictment says Ashkenazi then ran over to the two and hit Zazan over the head with a glass bottle. Zazan was unhurt, and he and Ashkenazi began to scuffle. Zazan then allegedly pulled a knife with a blade 10 to 12 centimeters long and stabbed Ashkenazi in the stomach. Ashkenazi died before reaching the hospital.

In addition to manslaughter, Zazan is facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm and possession of a knife. His attorney, Tzion Shimon, said the case was clearly one of self-defense, maintaining that Zazan had been attacked by four men simultaneously. The minor who was with Zazan is being charged with causing grievous bodily harm and illegal possession of knife, and an arrest warrant has been issued against him.

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July 31, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Can 23andMe Tell Us If Jews Are A Race And Is That A Good Thing? – Forward

Phil Mazo, a comedian based in Jersey City, NJ, was reading through the to-do list on his phone when he decided it might be time to check off one item that had been on the list for some time: Buy a take-home genome testing kit from the company 23andMe. After finding a deal on a kit on Ebay a man had bought tests for his whole family, but was left with an extra kit after his brother got divorced Mazo hit purchase.

Mazos parents emigrated from Soviet Russia. They were completely secular, and theres a lot he doesnt know about his family tree. Maybe the test could give him the proof of his own Jewishness that religious observance never could.

I wonder if part of that is also a search for identity, he said.

Learning your genetic makeup has never been easier than it is in 2017. For less than the cost of a doctors visit, some people are trying to use the service to find out if or to what extent theyre Jewish, a phenomenon that worries historians and scientists. Buyers of mail-order gene testing kits do get solid information from them. They learn where their ancestors were living nine generations ago. Some have even found living, but long-lost, family members. The danger, experts say, is that in relying on these kits to learn more about their genes, users are perpetuating the notion that Jews are a race a concept they say has no scientific basis.

In a culture like America, where most Jews are largely assimilated and a lot of Jews are not religious in any way, the idea that there is some invisible essence that ties us to our ancestors, even without us behaving Jewishly, is a very appealing idea, says Steven Weitzman, a professor of Jewish history and author of The Origin of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age. Its a stable source of identity that is appealing at a time when Jews feel like theyre losing their identity.

Eighty years after the Holocaust, in which about 6 million Jews were killed in the name of purifying the Aryan race, the business of direct-to-consumer genetic testing is booming and its never been cooler to spit in a sterile plastic tube. Ten years ago 23andMe started holding spit parties at New York Fashion Week to get publicity. Now the company has a valuation of over $1 billion. People who use genome testing services routinely post videos on YouTube of themselves learning their ancestry in real time.

Though genome tests may not sway ones sense of Jewish identity, they have become popular at a moment when Jews are talking more and more about what Judaism is: Is it a race? Are Jews white? The movie Wonder Woman starring Israeli Gal Gadot, a fair-skinned Jew of Eastern European descent, triggered an online debate about whether Israelis could be considered people of color.

The idea of race has historically slotted humans into a handful of categories: Asian, African, white, etc. But research has shown that there can be as much genetic difference within these races as between them, and experts say the notion that ones skin tone and facial features alone can predict social behavior is plain wrong.

Its really important for all of us to resist the attempt to revive this discredited notion that race is a biological category rather than a political and social category, said Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a not-for-profit scientific ethics group.

Indeed, 23andMe and Ancestry.com doesnt even try to attempt to isolate Jewish genes just Ashkenazic genes. 23andMe lists Ashkenazi Jewish as a reference population within the larger European population. Ancestry.com calls Jewish genes European Jewish. Sephardic Jews are not considered a distinct population by either company, or by researchers their genetic make-up is not sufficiently different from surrounding North African, Iberian and Greek populations. Ashkenazic Jews often find themselves in the peculiar situation of being 90% Ashkenazi Jewish and 99% European. Sephardic Jews may be told they are mostly Middle Eastern and North African and less than 10% Ashkenazic.

Stuart Schuffman, a travel writer and blogger who writes under the name Broke Ass Stuart, said he bought a kit from 23andMe because even though his family insists theyre exclusively Jewish, he thought there was a possibility that he had some non-Jewish ancestry.

I was curious, because you never know, said Schuffman. Family stories are just stories.

Schuffman, who learned that he is 99.8% Ashkenazi Jewish, said the test hasnt made much of a difference on his sense of Jewish identity.

Judaisms really informed who I am, and my values and my worldview, Schuffman said. [23andMe] hasnt made me more or less Jewy at all. Im just Jewy.

However, Schuffman added, hes Jewy and white, while other Jews Sephardic Jews, Ethiopian Jews cant claim that distinction. Hes an ethnic minority, but a white one nonetheless.

I get all the benefits of white privilege, he acknowledged.

Geneticists say white is an empty concept, connoting nothing about intelligence or personality.

Jews do, however, have shared genetic origins, wrote Dr. Harry Ostrer, a population geneticist and author of the book Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People.

That means that while Jews originated in the Middle East, they began forming long-term communities in various places Iraq, North Africa, the northern Mediterranean, central Asia and, eventually, Eastern Europe after their expulsion from the ancient Israelite kingdoms in modern-day Israel. Even as these communities formed their own unique genetic signatures and intermarried with non-Jews around them, they retained certain sequences of DNA that are unique to people descended from ancient Israelites.

Thus, if you are nearly 100% percent Ashkenazi according to 23andMe or Ancestry.com like Stuart Schuffman you likely have an abundance of these particular genetic sequences. If you are 10% Ashkenazi and have Sephardic heritage, you may still have an abundance of Jewish genetic sequences they may have just come by way of Morocco, or Iran, and be different from the genes that make Ashkenazi Jews unique.

To make this easier to explain, Dr. Ostrer describes Jewishness at the genetic level as a tapestry.

The threads of the tapestry, he writes in Legacy, can be represented as shared segments of DNA and no single thread [is] required for composition of the tapestry. In other words, there is no single Jewish gene more a collection of genetic sequences that scientists have come to identify with a certain community that originated in the Middle East before migrating around the Mediterranean region. (Incidentally, people of Middle Eastern origin sometimes find they have a small amount of Ashkenazi ancestry for this reason.) Many modern Jews have this story encoded in their DNA.

Jews in the 20th century and late 19th century have gone through this experience of genealogical rupture, said Steven Weitzman, the Jewish historian. These genetic testing companies give you a very quick way to establish a connection to ancestors in the old world.

Weitzman said that he thinks the excitement over services like 23andMe will fade as genetics fails to answer the political questions we hoped it would. He likened it to archaeology: many people once assumed that uncovering ancient Israelite society would strengthen the Jewish claim to the land of Israel.

The more we learn about archaeology, more we debate, Weitzman said.

My feeling is that genetics is likely to move in the same direction, he added. It offers insights, but at the end of the day the data has to be interpreted, and it can be interpreted in different ways ways that can be construed as politically motivated.

But for Phil Mazo, the comedian, politics are the farthest thing from his mind as he waits on his 23andMe kit to come in the mail. His cousin, a medical resident, recently took 23andMes health test and learned about his genetic predisposition to degenerative diseases like Parkinsons and Alzheimers. Mazo wasnt sure he he could live with bad news.

I was thinking, like, if he can do it I can do it, he said. But then I think, What good would it be to know?

Contact Ari Feldman at feldman@forward.com or on Twitter @aefeldman.

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Mutation explains why some men live to 100 – ISRAEL21c

Just as smaller animals of a given species generally live longer than their larger cousins, one might expect that taller humans are genetically programmed to sacrifice longevity for height.

But its not that simple.

A major multinational study of 841 men and women from across four populations found lower levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in men living to age 100 and yet most of them were taller than men in the younger control group.

The apparent explanation for this head-scratcher is that some long-lived men and only men have a genetic mutation that makes their growth hormone receptors more sensitive to the effects of the hormone. The cells absorb less growth hormone, yet protein expression is increased by several times.

This mutation seems to be responsible for their ability to live about 10 years longer than the control group of 70-year-old men without the mutation, even though they have a lower amount of growth hormone and are about 3 centimeters (1.18 inches) taller.

The lead author of the study is Prof. Gil Atzmon of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and head of the Laboratory of Genetics and Epigenetics of Aging and Longevity at the University of Haifa. Since 2001, Atzmon has been studying the human genome and its impact on aging and longevity.

Longevity genes

The researchers working with Atzmon looked at four elderly populations: 567 Ashkenazi Jews in the Longevity Genes Project at Einstein, 152 from a study of Amish centenarians, and the rest from an American cardiovascular health study and a French longevity study.

In 2008, the Longevity Genes Project found a genetic mutation in the IGF-1 receptor of some women, though its not the same as the one affecting mens lifespan.

We knew in the past that genetic pathways associated with growth hormone were also associated with longevity and now we have found a specific mutation whose presence or absence is directly related to it, said Atzmon.

This study makes it an established fact that there is a relationship between the function of the growth hormone and longevity. Our current goal is to fully understand the mechanism of the mutation we found to express it, so that we can allow longevity while maintaining quality of life, he added.

The 16 researchers involved the study, published June 16 in Science Advances, are associated with institutions in Israel and France as well as the US states of New York, Maryland, California, Vermont, Massachusetts and Washington.

Clue to longer life

While more research is needed to understand why the receptor mutation affects longevity and why it happens only in men, the study suggests that making a slight change in this specific piece of DNA could possibly make people live longer.

Although the presence of the mutation almost certainly ensured longevity, Atzmon stressed that many other factors affect longevity and that many men without the mutation also live to 100 and older.

Atzmon is one of the principal researchers in the Longevity Genes Project at Einstein along with Israeli endocrinology specialist Dr. Nir Barzilai.

Their groundbreaking 10-year study of healthy Ashkenazi Jews between the ages of 95 and 112 and their children attempted to understand why humans dont all age at the same rate, and why only one in 10,000 individuals lives to 100.

The centenarians were found to have genetic protective factors (longevity genes) that overcame factors such as diet and lifestyle.

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Lesser-known gene mutations may boost breast cancer risk in Jewish women – Reuters

(Reuters Health) – Jewish women of European descent may be at risk for additional genetic mutations that increase their risk of breast cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers found that around 4 percent of Ashkenazi Jewish women without three well-known mutations in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have other mutations that may increase their risk for breast cancer.

The well-known mutations are called “founders” since they’ve been inherited from the women’s ancestors in Europe. Lead author Mary-Claire King and colleagues write in JAMA Oncology that those mutations are responsible for about 10 percent of invasive breast cancers among Ashkenazi Jewish women.

According to the National Cancer Institute, between 1 in 400 and 1 in 800 people in the general U.S. population has one of these founders mutations – but that number increases to about 1 in 40 among Ashkenazi Jews.

In women who don’t carry one of those mutations, the risk of having another mutation that increases their risk of breast cancer is unknown, King’s team writes.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed blood samples collected between 1996 and 2000 from 1,007 Ashkenazi Jewish women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and were being treated at one of 12 cancer centers near New York City.

Genetic testing showed 903 women did not have those founder mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

But seven of these women – nearly 1 percent – had a different mutation in those genes and 31 women – nearly 3.5 percent – had mutations in other genes that might have increased their risk for breast cancer.

The researchers point out that about half of the women with these genetic mutations did not have a family history of breast cancer. So, making genetic counseling available only to women with a family history of breast cancer might miss about half of the women with mutations.

Ashkenazi Jewish women who have not been tested for genetic mutations tied to an increased risk of breast cancer should be offered testing for all mutations, they write.

“Given that complete sequencing of all breast cancer genes is now straightforward and inexpensive, its use as the primary testing tool offers a uniform approach for women of all ancestries and precludes the need to consider additional testing for Ashkenazi Jewish women with negative results for only BRCA1 and BRCA2 founder allies,” they add.

The hope is that such testing would allows healthcare providers to prevent cancer or find it early, said Leigha Senter, a licensed genetics counselor at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus.

“That is a clear pathway to action,” said Senter, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

She said a positive finding could lead to women getting more screenings, for example.

“If were going to look for the founding mutations, its no more difficult to look for these other mutations,” said Senter.

She cautioned that some of these other mutations don’t increase the risk of breast cancer to the same extent as the founder mutations, however.

Senter said women should be proactive and tell their doctors about any history of breast cancer on either side of their family. Additionally, she said, it’s important to keep checking on the current screening recommendations.

“Those screening recommendations as we know them now, might be very different a couple of years from now as we learn more,” she said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2uQTcwu JAMA Oncology, online July 20, 2017.

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Lesser-known gene mutations may boost breast cancer risk in Jewish women – Reuters

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Weimar Hosting Jewish Festival to Bring People Together – World Religion News

A number of Jewish cultural festivals are happening all over the world this summer. The centerpiece, however, is the Yiddish Summer Weimar (YSW), a full month of cultural tours, performances, and workshops.

For Germans, Weimar was always a cultural hotbed. The city is home to celebrated German cultural symbols like Goethe and Schiller. It was known throughout Germany, and even Europe for its literature, visual arts and music. The best Jewish cultural icons gave their best performances in the city from 1918 to 1933, the year Nazis took over the metropolis. Weimar, throbs with artistic innovation and cultural activity. Its latest cultural feather is the Yiddish Summer Weimar or YSW as the event is popularly known. The event, which is at its 17th year, began as a Yiddish music worskhop in Weimar under the 1999 European Summer Academy. It has evolved into one of the most respected festivals for Jewish music and culture in the world, writes Yael Breuer.

The 2017 theme of the YSW is The Other Israel: Seeing Unseen Diasporas. According to Dr. Alan Bern, Founder and Director, as with all our projects, our goal is not merely to gain new knowledge, but to change how we experience ourselves and others, to create new possibilities for being together in this world.

Other than the usual festive calendar, there will be a number of workshops and concerts dedicated to the number of cultures present in Israel. Ashkenazi culture will also be depicted. (Ashkenazi Jews are a Jewish diaspora population that converged in the Holy Roman Empire in the first century). The interplay among the different cultures will also be shown.

One interesting mix will be the Voices of Peace Choir from Jaffa. The choir has Jewish musicians and singers performing with Arab-Israeli girls. The performance includes a number of Yiddish children’s songs written by Kadya Molodowsky. They will perform in tandem with Schola Cantorum, of Weimar city.

We invite. The amount of Jewish festivals that are organized in most Polish cities would pleasantly surpise you. @MrJonnyDaniels can confirm

Janina (@Ojdadana) July 13, 2017

The Caravan Orchestra of Haifa will also perform in Weimar. The cast includes Jews performing with Arab Israelis. This orchestra will play with many European musicians of different musical genres. The result will be a one-of-a-kind concert program blending Jewish, European and Arab traditions. The list of other must-see programs includes a concert to honor Ruth Rubin, the ethnomusicologist, and Yiddish classes. There will also be a workshop with the famous Mendy Cahan on badkhones (wedding rhymes). Yuri Vedenyapin will also teach the most engaging way to tell Yiddish stories.

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Groundbreaking research on Jewish ancestry: Near Eastern ancestry on Ashkenazi male line while females primarily … – Genetic Literacy Project

The origins of Ashkenazi Jews remain highly controversial. Like Judaism, mitochondrial DNA is passed along the maternal line. Its variation in the Ashkenazim is highly distinctive, with four major and numerous minor founders. However, due to their rarity in the general population, these founders have been difficult to trace to a source.

We arefaced with several competing models for Ashkenazi origins: a Levantine ancestry; a Mediterranean/west European ancestry; a North Caucasian ancestry; or, of course, a blend of these. This seems an ideal problem to tackle with genetic analysis, but after decades of intensive study a definitive answer remains elusive.

This problem can be resolved by reconstructing the relationships genealogically, rather than relying on allele frequencies, using the non-recombining marker systemsThis has indeed been attempted, with the MSY results interpreted plausibly to suggest an overwhelming majority of Near Eastern ancestry on the Ashkenazi male line of descent, albeit with much higher levels (>50%) of European (potentially east European) lineages in Ashkenazi Levites.

[I] seems that at least 80% of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry is due to the assimilation of mtDNAs indigenous to Europe, most likely through conversion.

The Ashkenazim therefore resemble Jewish communities in Eastern Africa and India, and possibly also others across the Near East, Caucasus and Central Asia, which also carry a substantial fraction of maternal lineages from their host communities

NOTE: GLP executive director Jon Entine has written a book addressing the debate over Jewish ancestry, Abrahams Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post:A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Opinion: Why we should be worried about gene-carrier screening – Medical Xpress

August 2, 2017 by Felicity Boardman, The Conversation Credit: gopixa/Shutterstock The ability to cheaply and quickly sequence entire genomes is changing the way diseases are identified and treated. But it is also likely to change the way we make some of the most important and personal decisions of our lives: how, and with whom, we have children. Pre-conception genetic screening (testing for “carrier status” before pregnancy) has usually only been available to couples already known to be at risk of a particular disease. Ashkenazi Jews, for example, are most likely to be carriers of the mutated HEXA gene linked to Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal genetic disorder. Screening for the HEXA mutation is therefore recommended for all Ashkenazi Jews planning children. Today, though, genome sequencing is more affordable and accessible than ever before. It is now (at least, technically) possible to screen everyone to find out if they are a carrier of a genetic disease. These technological changes have triggered increased enthusiasm for carrier screening. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommended that carrier screening be offered to everyone, and at the very least to all pregnant women. Similarly, private companies in the UK are now offering pre-conception screening for large panels of genetic conditions, simultaneously. It is estimated that the average person carries three to five serious genetic conditions, such as spinal muscular atrophy or cystic fibrosis, so the routine use of pre-conception screening could affect a lot of people and the way they approach relationships. The “genetic compatability” of a couple is set to become an important consideration for future generations, changing the way relationships are formed. Dating apps, for example, which give users snapshot information about a potential mate, could become places where carrier status is disclosed alongside other notable physical characteristics such as hair and eye colour. Some of these apps are already emerging one has been dubbed Tinder for Tay-Sachs. Indeed, through the Dor Yeshorim initiative, the Ashkenazi community has long operated an anonymous programme of pre-marital genetic screening for this very purpose. Unlike an Ashkenazi Jew, who may be more prepared for the news that they are a carrier of Tay-Sachs, research shows that most people who undergo carrier screening are entirely unprepared for a positive result. As most genetic disorders screened for are considered rare, those having the screening will probably have never experienced, or even heard of, the condition they have been found to carry. Impossible judgement This lack of experience is significant because research shows that it makes an important difference to the way people make decisions about having a baby with that condition. For example, a recent study my colleagues and I conducted showed that people without prior experience of spinal muscular atrophy took a much dimmer view of the condition than families who live with it. They were also more likely than families with spinal muscular atrophy families to consider termination of an affected pregnancy as acceptable. This contrast highlights that decisions about whether to introduce pre-conception screening, and which conditions it should be used for, are not as straightforward as they initially appear. What may be a liveable disability to one person, may be an intolerable experience to another. Yet pre-conception genetic screening calls on us to make this impossible judgement before that person is even conceived. Given the wide variability and unpredictability of genetic disease, it may appear logical to avoid all forms of it as far as current technology allows, anyway. However, the emergence of groups, such as “don’t screen us out”, which lobby against screening for Down’s syndrome, highlight the difficulties that surround such blanket avoidance. Many people can, and do, live happy and fulfilling lives with a genetic disease. Yet, once introduced on a mass scale, screening programmes can become difficult to refuse. Having a disabled child, when the technology existed to prevent it, could come to be seen as knowingly inflicting that condition on the child. While personal choice and control are at the heart of the drive towards pre-conception screening, we also need to consider what other choices become closed off by its introduction. Neutralising the genetic gamble does not come without a cost. And, as a society, we need to carefully consider just what sacrifices we are prepared to make for it. Explore further: What is pre-pregnancy carrier screening and should potential parents consider it? This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Newborn screening is considered to be a “baby’s first test.” Within the first two days of birth, a baby’s heel is pricked to obtain a small amount of blood that is screened for up to dozens of genetic diseases, especially … Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

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August 2, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Why we should be worried about gene-carrier screening – The Conversation UK

The ability to cheaply and quickly sequence entire genomes is changing the way diseases are identified and treated. But it is also likely to change the way we make some of the most important and personal decisions of our lives: how, and with whom, we have children. Pre-conception genetic screening (testing for carrier status before pregnancy) has usually only been available to couples already known to be at risk of a particular disease. Ashkenazi Jews, for example, are most likely to be carriers of the mutated HEXA gene linked to Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal genetic disorder. Screening for the HEXA mutation is therefore recommended for all Ashkenazi Jews planning children. Today, though, genome sequencing is more affordable and accessible than ever before. It is now (at least, technically) possible to screen everyone to find out if they are a carrier of a genetic disease. These technological changes have triggered increased enthusiasm for carrier screening. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommended that carrier screening be offered to everyone, and at the very least to all pregnant women. Similarly, private companies in the UK are now offering pre-conception screening for large panels of genetic conditions, simultaneously. It is estimated that the average person carries three to five serious genetic conditions, such as spinal muscular atrophy or cystic fibrosis, so the routine use of pre-conception screening could affect a lot of people and the way they approach relationships. The genetic compatability of a couple is set to become an important consideration for future generations, changing the way relationships are formed. Dating apps, for example, which give users snapshot information about a potential mate, could become places where carrier status is disclosed alongside other notable physical characteristics such as hair and eye colour. Some of these apps are already emerging one has been dubbed Tinder for Tay-Sachs. Indeed, through the Dor Yeshorim initiative, the Ashkenazi community has long operated an anonymous programme of pre-marital genetic screening for this very purpose. Unlike an Ashkenazi Jew, who may be more prepared for the news that they are a carrier of Tay-Sachs, research shows that most people who undergo carrier screening are entirely unprepared for a positive result. As most genetic disorders screened for are considered rare, those having the screening will probably have never experienced, or even heard of, the condition they have been found to carry. This lack of experience is significant because research shows that it makes an important difference to the way people make decisions about having a baby with that condition. For example, a recent study my colleagues and I conducted showed that people without prior experience of spinal muscular atrophy took a much dimmer view of the condition than families who live with it. They were also more likely than families with spinal muscular atrophy families to consider termination of an affected pregnancy as acceptable. This contrast highlights that decisions about whether to introduce pre-conception screening, and which conditions it should be used for, are not as straightforward as they initially appear. What may be a liveable disability to one person, may be an intolerable experience to another. Yet pre-conception genetic screening calls on us to make this impossible judgement before that person is even conceived. Given the wide variability and unpredictability of genetic disease, it may appear logical to avoid all forms of it as far as current technology allows, anyway. However, the emergence of groups, such as dont screen us out, which lobby against screening for Downs syndrome, highlight the difficulties that surround such blanket avoidance. Many people can, and do, live happy and fulfilling lives with a genetic disease. Yet, once introduced on a mass scale, screening programmes can become difficult to refuse. Having a disabled child, when the technology existed to prevent it, could come to be seen as knowingly inflicting that condition on the child. While personal choice and control are at the heart of the drive towards pre-conception screening, we also need to consider what other choices become closed off by its introduction. Neutralising the genetic gamble does not come without a cost. And, as a society, we need to carefully consider just what sacrifices we are prepared to make for it.

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August 2, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Are we still in exile? – Arutz Sheva

A rare interview from the archives of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority sheds light on the significance of the Ninth of Av, on which Jews commemorate the destruction of both Holy Temples and a host of other tragedies in Jewish history, for our times. The interview, with Rabbi Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi, was part of the Tzerufim program which was broadcasted in 1985 on Channel 1 every week after Shabbat. Rabbi Ashkenazi was among the foremost spiritual leaders of French Jewry in the 20th Century. Interviewer: Is it still possible to describe in todays age, when 300,000 Israelis have [voluntarily] left Israel, the exile as the most severe of sufferings? Rabbi Ashkenazi: The Exile is defined by the Sages of Israel as unnatural, abnormal, and for he who feels himself to be healthy, [the Exile] is as difficult as death. I: Is the Exile over, despite the fact most of the Jews still reside outside of Israel? RA: The situation of a dispersed nation in foreign lands without its capital city has ceased. And even the situation today of Diaspora Jewry has changed because of the establishment of the State of Israel, [as] now they have a connection to their Nation based in reality. Diaspora Jewry of today is in an anachronistic position: on the one hand, they are the result of the Second Temple exile which yearned for redemption, while on the other hand, the Third Temple is already starting to be rebuilt in our day. Therefore, a Jew who leaves the State of Israel today is a bit more connected to Israel than one who never moved to Israel in the first place, since he is the [true] Diaspora of the State of Israel. Diaspora Jewry needs to repair its relationship with the State of Israel – and it may take time, since we are in a transition period. I: Even so, werent there good periods when Jews resided outside of Israel (like the Golden Age in Spain)? Is all that considered Exile? RA: There are periods of Exile, such as under Joseph in Egypt, which it is possible to call good. But every good period in exile, without exception, ends with destruction. Whoever looks at the post -Biblical period sees the constant failure, as if theres some sort of fatalism; We dont know how to pull ourselves from the external world at the right moment. A historical law is very dangerous. We need to be aware of consequences. I: If failure in exile is a historical law, how can we change the law? RA: What is the source of the [law]? There is a certain tendency in our identity towards the universality of the external world, which explains the pull of exile. In our forefathers, this was a good trait. But in their descendants, this universalism reveals itself as cosmopolitanism, a doubt about the uniqueness of the Jewish People. I: Is there an element of similarity between our generation and previous ones? RA: We are in a very similar period to that of the beginning of the Second Temple period. Also in that period, the Jewish people was in its land, and there was also a Diaspora community from the First Temple exile which did not return in the period of Ezra and Nehemia. So the question today is, What is the nature of the connection between the Diaspora of then and the State of today? Are we at the beginning of a process [like what we saw in the Second Temple period] and heading for a crisis, or at the end of the crisis? History can only go on for so long. We had two thousand years of exile, and all of a sudden something completely different, so Im optimistic.

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August 1, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Young Israeli Man Charged With Lethal Stabbing at Party Over Money – Haaretz

Indictment says victim, 24, hit accused in head with bottle, then accused, 21, pulled knife and killed him during Haifa party A 21-year-old man has been indicted for stabbing another man to death during a party in the Elyakim forest in northern Israel in June. Manslaughter charges were filed against Tiran Zazan of the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata, who allegedly stabbed the victim, Moshe Ashkenazi, 24, of Migdal Haemek in a quarrel over money that Mizrahi owed Zazan. According to the indictment filed in Haifa District Court, the two men knew each other, and a few weeks earlier had begun to quarrel over money. Zazan allegedly threatened Ashkenazi on various occasions that he would hurt him if he didnt repay the debt. The indictment states that the two ran into each other at the party, and Zazan asked Ashkenazi about the money. When Ashkenazi said he wouldnt give it to Zazan, the latter said he would not leave without it. At some point Zazan and a friend, who is a minor, moved away from Ashkenazi and began talking to each other. The indictment says Ashkenazi then ran over to the two and hit Zazan over the head with a glass bottle. Zazan was unhurt, and he and Ashkenazi began to scuffle. Zazan then allegedly pulled a knife with a blade 10 to 12 centimeters long and stabbed Ashkenazi in the stomach. Ashkenazi died before reaching the hospital. In addition to manslaughter, Zazan is facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm and possession of a knife. His attorney, Tzion Shimon, said the case was clearly one of self-defense, maintaining that Zazan had been attacked by four men simultaneously. The minor who was with Zazan is being charged with causing grievous bodily harm and illegal possession of knife, and an arrest warrant has been issued against him. We’ve got more newsletters we think you’ll find interesting. Please try again later. This email address has already registered for this newsletter. Want to enjoy ‘Zen’ reading – with no ads and just the article? Subscribe today

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July 31, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Can 23andMe Tell Us If Jews Are A Race And Is That A Good Thing? – Forward

Phil Mazo, a comedian based in Jersey City, NJ, was reading through the to-do list on his phone when he decided it might be time to check off one item that had been on the list for some time: Buy a take-home genome testing kit from the company 23andMe. After finding a deal on a kit on Ebay a man had bought tests for his whole family, but was left with an extra kit after his brother got divorced Mazo hit purchase. Mazos parents emigrated from Soviet Russia. They were completely secular, and theres a lot he doesnt know about his family tree. Maybe the test could give him the proof of his own Jewishness that religious observance never could. I wonder if part of that is also a search for identity, he said. Learning your genetic makeup has never been easier than it is in 2017. For less than the cost of a doctors visit, some people are trying to use the service to find out if or to what extent theyre Jewish, a phenomenon that worries historians and scientists. Buyers of mail-order gene testing kits do get solid information from them. They learn where their ancestors were living nine generations ago. Some have even found living, but long-lost, family members. The danger, experts say, is that in relying on these kits to learn more about their genes, users are perpetuating the notion that Jews are a race a concept they say has no scientific basis. In a culture like America, where most Jews are largely assimilated and a lot of Jews are not religious in any way, the idea that there is some invisible essence that ties us to our ancestors, even without us behaving Jewishly, is a very appealing idea, says Steven Weitzman, a professor of Jewish history and author of The Origin of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age. Its a stable source of identity that is appealing at a time when Jews feel like theyre losing their identity. Eighty years after the Holocaust, in which about 6 million Jews were killed in the name of purifying the Aryan race, the business of direct-to-consumer genetic testing is booming and its never been cooler to spit in a sterile plastic tube. Ten years ago 23andMe started holding spit parties at New York Fashion Week to get publicity. Now the company has a valuation of over $1 billion. People who use genome testing services routinely post videos on YouTube of themselves learning their ancestry in real time. Though genome tests may not sway ones sense of Jewish identity, they have become popular at a moment when Jews are talking more and more about what Judaism is: Is it a race? Are Jews white? The movie Wonder Woman starring Israeli Gal Gadot, a fair-skinned Jew of Eastern European descent, triggered an online debate about whether Israelis could be considered people of color. The idea of race has historically slotted humans into a handful of categories: Asian, African, white, etc. But research has shown that there can be as much genetic difference within these races as between them, and experts say the notion that ones skin tone and facial features alone can predict social behavior is plain wrong. Its really important for all of us to resist the attempt to revive this discredited notion that race is a biological category rather than a political and social category, said Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a not-for-profit scientific ethics group. Indeed, 23andMe and Ancestry.com doesnt even try to attempt to isolate Jewish genes just Ashkenazic genes. 23andMe lists Ashkenazi Jewish as a reference population within the larger European population. Ancestry.com calls Jewish genes European Jewish. Sephardic Jews are not considered a distinct population by either company, or by researchers their genetic make-up is not sufficiently different from surrounding North African, Iberian and Greek populations. Ashkenazic Jews often find themselves in the peculiar situation of being 90% Ashkenazi Jewish and 99% European. Sephardic Jews may be told they are mostly Middle Eastern and North African and less than 10% Ashkenazic. Stuart Schuffman, a travel writer and blogger who writes under the name Broke Ass Stuart, said he bought a kit from 23andMe because even though his family insists theyre exclusively Jewish, he thought there was a possibility that he had some non-Jewish ancestry. I was curious, because you never know, said Schuffman. Family stories are just stories. Schuffman, who learned that he is 99.8% Ashkenazi Jewish, said the test hasnt made much of a difference on his sense of Jewish identity. Judaisms really informed who I am, and my values and my worldview, Schuffman said. [23andMe] hasnt made me more or less Jewy at all. Im just Jewy. However, Schuffman added, hes Jewy and white, while other Jews Sephardic Jews, Ethiopian Jews cant claim that distinction. Hes an ethnic minority, but a white one nonetheless. I get all the benefits of white privilege, he acknowledged. Geneticists say white is an empty concept, connoting nothing about intelligence or personality. Jews do, however, have shared genetic origins, wrote Dr. Harry Ostrer, a population geneticist and author of the book Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People. That means that while Jews originated in the Middle East, they began forming long-term communities in various places Iraq, North Africa, the northern Mediterranean, central Asia and, eventually, Eastern Europe after their expulsion from the ancient Israelite kingdoms in modern-day Israel. Even as these communities formed their own unique genetic signatures and intermarried with non-Jews around them, they retained certain sequences of DNA that are unique to people descended from ancient Israelites. Thus, if you are nearly 100% percent Ashkenazi according to 23andMe or Ancestry.com like Stuart Schuffman you likely have an abundance of these particular genetic sequences. If you are 10% Ashkenazi and have Sephardic heritage, you may still have an abundance of Jewish genetic sequences they may have just come by way of Morocco, or Iran, and be different from the genes that make Ashkenazi Jews unique. To make this easier to explain, Dr. Ostrer describes Jewishness at the genetic level as a tapestry. The threads of the tapestry, he writes in Legacy, can be represented as shared segments of DNA and no single thread [is] required for composition of the tapestry. In other words, there is no single Jewish gene more a collection of genetic sequences that scientists have come to identify with a certain community that originated in the Middle East before migrating around the Mediterranean region. (Incidentally, people of Middle Eastern origin sometimes find they have a small amount of Ashkenazi ancestry for this reason.) Many modern Jews have this story encoded in their DNA. Jews in the 20th century and late 19th century have gone through this experience of genealogical rupture, said Steven Weitzman, the Jewish historian. These genetic testing companies give you a very quick way to establish a connection to ancestors in the old world. Weitzman said that he thinks the excitement over services like 23andMe will fade as genetics fails to answer the political questions we hoped it would. He likened it to archaeology: many people once assumed that uncovering ancient Israelite society would strengthen the Jewish claim to the land of Israel. The more we learn about archaeology, more we debate, Weitzman said. My feeling is that genetics is likely to move in the same direction, he added. It offers insights, but at the end of the day the data has to be interpreted, and it can be interpreted in different ways ways that can be construed as politically motivated. But for Phil Mazo, the comedian, politics are the farthest thing from his mind as he waits on his 23andMe kit to come in the mail. His cousin, a medical resident, recently took 23andMes health test and learned about his genetic predisposition to degenerative diseases like Parkinsons and Alzheimers. Mazo wasnt sure he he could live with bad news. I was thinking, like, if he can do it I can do it, he said. But then I think, What good would it be to know? Contact Ari Feldman at feldman@forward.com or on Twitter @aefeldman.

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July 30, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Mutation explains why some men live to 100 – ISRAEL21c

Just as smaller animals of a given species generally live longer than their larger cousins, one might expect that taller humans are genetically programmed to sacrifice longevity for height. But its not that simple. A major multinational study of 841 men and women from across four populations found lower levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in men living to age 100 and yet most of them were taller than men in the younger control group. The apparent explanation for this head-scratcher is that some long-lived men and only men have a genetic mutation that makes their growth hormone receptors more sensitive to the effects of the hormone. The cells absorb less growth hormone, yet protein expression is increased by several times. This mutation seems to be responsible for their ability to live about 10 years longer than the control group of 70-year-old men without the mutation, even though they have a lower amount of growth hormone and are about 3 centimeters (1.18 inches) taller. The lead author of the study is Prof. Gil Atzmon of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and head of the Laboratory of Genetics and Epigenetics of Aging and Longevity at the University of Haifa. Since 2001, Atzmon has been studying the human genome and its impact on aging and longevity. Longevity genes The researchers working with Atzmon looked at four elderly populations: 567 Ashkenazi Jews in the Longevity Genes Project at Einstein, 152 from a study of Amish centenarians, and the rest from an American cardiovascular health study and a French longevity study. In 2008, the Longevity Genes Project found a genetic mutation in the IGF-1 receptor of some women, though its not the same as the one affecting mens lifespan. We knew in the past that genetic pathways associated with growth hormone were also associated with longevity and now we have found a specific mutation whose presence or absence is directly related to it, said Atzmon. This study makes it an established fact that there is a relationship between the function of the growth hormone and longevity. Our current goal is to fully understand the mechanism of the mutation we found to express it, so that we can allow longevity while maintaining quality of life, he added. The 16 researchers involved the study, published June 16 in Science Advances, are associated with institutions in Israel and France as well as the US states of New York, Maryland, California, Vermont, Massachusetts and Washington. Clue to longer life While more research is needed to understand why the receptor mutation affects longevity and why it happens only in men, the study suggests that making a slight change in this specific piece of DNA could possibly make people live longer. Although the presence of the mutation almost certainly ensured longevity, Atzmon stressed that many other factors affect longevity and that many men without the mutation also live to 100 and older. Atzmon is one of the principal researchers in the Longevity Genes Project at Einstein along with Israeli endocrinology specialist Dr. Nir Barzilai. Their groundbreaking 10-year study of healthy Ashkenazi Jews between the ages of 95 and 112 and their children attempted to understand why humans dont all age at the same rate, and why only one in 10,000 individuals lives to 100. The centenarians were found to have genetic protective factors (longevity genes) that overcame factors such as diet and lifestyle.

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July 25, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Lesser-known gene mutations may boost breast cancer risk in Jewish women – Reuters

(Reuters Health) – Jewish women of European descent may be at risk for additional genetic mutations that increase their risk of breast cancer, according to a new study. Researchers found that around 4 percent of Ashkenazi Jewish women without three well-known mutations in their BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have other mutations that may increase their risk for breast cancer. The well-known mutations are called “founders” since they’ve been inherited from the women’s ancestors in Europe. Lead author Mary-Claire King and colleagues write in JAMA Oncology that those mutations are responsible for about 10 percent of invasive breast cancers among Ashkenazi Jewish women. According to the National Cancer Institute, between 1 in 400 and 1 in 800 people in the general U.S. population has one of these founders mutations – but that number increases to about 1 in 40 among Ashkenazi Jews. In women who don’t carry one of those mutations, the risk of having another mutation that increases their risk of breast cancer is unknown, King’s team writes. For the new study, the researchers analyzed blood samples collected between 1996 and 2000 from 1,007 Ashkenazi Jewish women who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and were being treated at one of 12 cancer centers near New York City. Genetic testing showed 903 women did not have those founder mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. But seven of these women – nearly 1 percent – had a different mutation in those genes and 31 women – nearly 3.5 percent – had mutations in other genes that might have increased their risk for breast cancer. The researchers point out that about half of the women with these genetic mutations did not have a family history of breast cancer. So, making genetic counseling available only to women with a family history of breast cancer might miss about half of the women with mutations. Ashkenazi Jewish women who have not been tested for genetic mutations tied to an increased risk of breast cancer should be offered testing for all mutations, they write. “Given that complete sequencing of all breast cancer genes is now straightforward and inexpensive, its use as the primary testing tool offers a uniform approach for women of all ancestries and precludes the need to consider additional testing for Ashkenazi Jewish women with negative results for only BRCA1 and BRCA2 founder allies,” they add. The hope is that such testing would allows healthcare providers to prevent cancer or find it early, said Leigha Senter, a licensed genetics counselor at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus. “That is a clear pathway to action,” said Senter, who wasn’t involved in the new study. She said a positive finding could lead to women getting more screenings, for example. “If were going to look for the founding mutations, its no more difficult to look for these other mutations,” said Senter. She cautioned that some of these other mutations don’t increase the risk of breast cancer to the same extent as the founder mutations, however. Senter said women should be proactive and tell their doctors about any history of breast cancer on either side of their family. Additionally, she said, it’s important to keep checking on the current screening recommendations. “Those screening recommendations as we know them now, might be very different a couple of years from now as we learn more,” she said. SOURCE: bit.ly/2uQTcwu JAMA Oncology, online July 20, 2017.

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Weimar Hosting Jewish Festival to Bring People Together – World Religion News

A number of Jewish cultural festivals are happening all over the world this summer. The centerpiece, however, is the Yiddish Summer Weimar (YSW), a full month of cultural tours, performances, and workshops. For Germans, Weimar was always a cultural hotbed. The city is home to celebrated German cultural symbols like Goethe and Schiller. It was known throughout Germany, and even Europe for its literature, visual arts and music. The best Jewish cultural icons gave their best performances in the city from 1918 to 1933, the year Nazis took over the metropolis. Weimar, throbs with artistic innovation and cultural activity. Its latest cultural feather is the Yiddish Summer Weimar or YSW as the event is popularly known. The event, which is at its 17th year, began as a Yiddish music worskhop in Weimar under the 1999 European Summer Academy. It has evolved into one of the most respected festivals for Jewish music and culture in the world, writes Yael Breuer. The 2017 theme of the YSW is The Other Israel: Seeing Unseen Diasporas. According to Dr. Alan Bern, Founder and Director, as with all our projects, our goal is not merely to gain new knowledge, but to change how we experience ourselves and others, to create new possibilities for being together in this world. Other than the usual festive calendar, there will be a number of workshops and concerts dedicated to the number of cultures present in Israel. Ashkenazi culture will also be depicted. (Ashkenazi Jews are a Jewish diaspora population that converged in the Holy Roman Empire in the first century). The interplay among the different cultures will also be shown. One interesting mix will be the Voices of Peace Choir from Jaffa. The choir has Jewish musicians and singers performing with Arab-Israeli girls. The performance includes a number of Yiddish children’s songs written by Kadya Molodowsky. They will perform in tandem with Schola Cantorum, of Weimar city. We invite. The amount of Jewish festivals that are organized in most Polish cities would pleasantly surpise you. @MrJonnyDaniels can confirm Janina (@Ojdadana) July 13, 2017 The Caravan Orchestra of Haifa will also perform in Weimar. The cast includes Jews performing with Arab Israelis. This orchestra will play with many European musicians of different musical genres. The result will be a one-of-a-kind concert program blending Jewish, European and Arab traditions. The list of other must-see programs includes a concert to honor Ruth Rubin, the ethnomusicologist, and Yiddish classes. There will also be a workshop with the famous Mendy Cahan on badkhones (wedding rhymes). Yuri Vedenyapin will also teach the most engaging way to tell Yiddish stories. Follow the Conversation on Twitter The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of World Religion News.

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed

Groundbreaking research on Jewish ancestry: Near Eastern ancestry on Ashkenazi male line while females primarily … – Genetic Literacy Project

The origins of Ashkenazi Jews remain highly controversial. Like Judaism, mitochondrial DNA is passed along the maternal line. Its variation in the Ashkenazim is highly distinctive, with four major and numerous minor founders. However, due to their rarity in the general population, these founders have been difficult to trace to a source. We arefaced with several competing models for Ashkenazi origins: a Levantine ancestry; a Mediterranean/west European ancestry; a North Caucasian ancestry; or, of course, a blend of these. This seems an ideal problem to tackle with genetic analysis, but after decades of intensive study a definitive answer remains elusive. This problem can be resolved by reconstructing the relationships genealogically, rather than relying on allele frequencies, using the non-recombining marker systemsThis has indeed been attempted, with the MSY results interpreted plausibly to suggest an overwhelming majority of Near Eastern ancestry on the Ashkenazi male line of descent, albeit with much higher levels (> 50%) of European (potentially east European) lineages in Ashkenazi Levites. [I] seems that at least 80% of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry is due to the assimilation of mtDNAs indigenous to Europe, most likely through conversion. The Ashkenazim therefore resemble Jewish communities in Eastern Africa and India, and possibly also others across the Near East, Caucasus and Central Asia, which also carry a substantial fraction of maternal lineages from their host communities NOTE: GLP executive director Jon Entine has written a book addressing the debate over Jewish ancestry, Abrahams Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People. The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post:A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages

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July 21, 2017   Posted in: Ashkenazi  Comments Closed


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