Genetics 2010

At Play: Henry Strongin Goldberg, pictured here on a family vacation in Spain at age 2, was born with Fanconi anemia, a fatal genetic disease.

For Henry’s Sake: Pioneering a Genetic Frontier

Ten years ago, the first-ever bone-marrow transplant was performed using the umbilical cord blood of a baby deliberately selected and implanted through a combination of in-vitro fertilization and genetic testing to save the life of his older sibling.

Laurie Strongin Discusses Her Fight To Save Her Son

In this audio slideshow, author Laurie Strongin speaks with the Forward’s Nate Lavey about her efforts to save her son Henry, who was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia — a genetic disease most common in Ashkenazic Jews.

The Ties That Bind

What is the essence of Jewish identity? Is it revealed in the choices we make, like giving tzedakah or observing the Sabbath, or is it in our genetic code? Is it a matter of faith, or a matter of heritability? Is it something we can choose, or is it a biological imperative embedded in nearly every cell of our body?

Investigators: Dr. Orly Elpeleg (above) and Dr. Joseph Gleeson (below) were on separate teams that published findings regarding a mutation that causes Joubert syndrome among Ashkenazi Jews.

Discovering the Newest Jewish Genetic Disease

One day, about four years ago, a young couple came to Dr. Alan Shanske’s office looking for help. They had already been to numerous doctors, but none of them was able to diagnose their 4-year-old son.

On The Ranch: This lamb is one of several sheep from the ranch of Fred and Joan Horak that was born with Tay-Sachs. Researchers believe that the sheep could help them in their search for a treatment for the deadly genetic disease among humans.

Sick Texas Sheep May Aid Tay-Sachs Fight

Fred and Joan Horak have been ranchers since 1985, so 11 years ago, when Joan noticed that two lambs from her flock had tilted heads and wobbly legs, she knew something was amiss. Little did the Horaks know that their discovery of these two sick lambs would end up providing new hope in the search for a treatment for a deadly genetic disease that afflicts humans.

Intermarriage Spurs Tay-Sachs Advisory

Citing rising Jewish intermarriage rates, the leading organization devoted to combating Tay-Sachs is urging doctors to encourage the use of more comprehensive testing methodology to identify carriers of the deadly genetic disease.

Improve FDA’s Rare Disease Review Process

The Jewish community has long been a leader in supporting medical research and education efforts, especially with regard to those diseases that disproportionately afflict people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Creating coalitions with other patient advocates in the rare disease community would give American Jews an opportunity to advance efforts to fight diseases that disproportionately affect Jews, as well as to participate in an important public policy debate involving millions in this country.

Raising Awareness: Rabbi Lawrence Sernovitz, pictured with his wife and son, urges rabbis to promote carrier screening.

Enlisting Rabbis in the Push for Screening

“My wife and I were married by two rabbis, one Conservative and the other Reform, and neither of them gave us any information about Jewish genetic diseases.” So begins the story of Lawrence Sernovitz, himself now an associate rabbi at the Old York Road Temple-Beth Am in Abington, Pa. A little more than a year later, in September 2008, Sernovitz and his wife had a baby boy born with familial dysautonomia, a rare recessive genetic disorder essentially found exclusively among Ashkenazi Jews.

Test, and Then Test Again, Experts Advise

With additional mutations for genetic diseases continuing to be discovered among Ashkenazi Jews, genetic screening advocates are urging people to get tested for newly identified diseases, even if they have already been tested for other diseases.

Send Them Your Saliva? A lab technician tests DNA samples at Pathway Genomics in San Diego, Calif.

Accessibility vs. Expertise: Direct-to-Consumer Testing Sparks Debate

Drugstores stock tests that gauge blood sugar levels, predict ovulation, ascertain pregnancy and determine whether illegal drugs are in the bloodstream. And back in May, the Walgreens pharmacy chain announced that it would offer testing kits of another kind: ones intended to detect genetic diseases.