Decoding the Ashkenazi Genome May Offer Clues to Cancer, Diabetes

Study of 1,500 Jews Offers Promising Progress

Thinking Big: Itsik Pe’er, a computational biologist at Columbia University is leading effort to decode 1,500 Ashkenazi Jews.
Courtesy of Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Thinking Big: Itsik Pe’er, a computational biologist at Columbia University is leading effort to decode 1,500 Ashkenazi Jews.

By Elie Dolgin

Published August 05, 2013, issue of August 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Dr. Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist at Einstein, thinks that completing this project will create a blueprint against which anyone — particularly those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent — could compare his or her own genetic data. “We’re going to be increasingly approached by people who say, ‘Okay, I have my genome sequenced. Can you help me understand it?’” he says. “So, our having catalogues of well-annotated variants that say ‘here’s what we know’ is going to be very important to people.”

The consortium hopes to raise between $5 million and $10 million to sequence some 400 to 500 healthy individuals and at least 100 individuals with each of nine different conditions: breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, dystonia (a neurological movement disorder), Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, birth defects, Gaucher’s disease, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They also aim to map the genomes of 100 centenarians with extreme longevity and good health.

The organizers have some funding from the National Institutes of Health, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation and several private donors, but they are nowhere near their target dollar amount. That’s why the website for the Ashkenazi Genome Project currently serves largely as a portal for collecting donations.

Donors can fund the cost of specialized computers, individual genome reads and staff scientists. Plus, says Lencz, “naming opportunities are available” — either for Lencz’s laboratory or for the entire project.

Smaller donations are welcome, too, but participation is not.

For the project, Lencz and his colleagues are using blood samples collected from previous studies.

Elie Dolgin is a senior news editor for the journal Nature Medicine, in Cambridge, Mass. Contact him at feedback@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.