March 2007

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A student gets tested at a recent screening at the University of Pittsburgh.

Free Student Screening For Jewish Genetic Diseases

It’s easy to think a genetic diseases as “something that happens to other people," or something only to worry about when you get pregnant. For Jewish families of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) descent, however, the risk is very real, today. Most people have heard of Tay-Sachs Disease, but what about Familial Dysautonomia? What about Canavan disease? These are also “Jewish genetic diseases” that remain prevalent in our community. In fact, it has been estimated that approximately one in four Jews of Ashkenazi descent is a carrier of a change or mutation in a gene known to cause one of the inherited Jewish Genetic diseases. However, there is hope for reducing them, as blood tests are available which can screen for the 11 diseases in the Ashkenazi Jewish panel of diseases.

The Victor Center for Ashkenazi Jewish Genetics Diseases at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia has taken on this task for the Jewish community with the Victor Center’s Kaiserman Screening Program that aims to educate, screen and provide genetic counseling to young adults prior to having children. Screening before pregnancy enables the couple to consider the largest number of options to have healthy children.

On Wednesday March 28th, 2007, the Kaiserman Screening Program will test for 9 Jewish genetic diseases, free of charge to students in the Philadelphia area. Students must be over 18 years old and have a valid student ID. The screening will take place at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel, 215 S. 39th St., Phila., from noon to 7 p.m. For more information, call 215-456-8722, or email LebowJ@einstein.edu or bncohen@sas.upenn.edu.

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