Jewish genetic testing offered

Posted By on April 23, 2014

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Tammy Rubin wasnt thrilled at the prospect of getting blood drawn by a phlebotomist. At least there was apple juice and the prospect of life-changing knowledge afterward.

The UCLA junior was sitting at a table outside of the campus Kerckhoff Hall on April 9, where the Los Angeles Jewish Genetic Disease Prevention Project and Progenity lab offered genetic screenings for both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews.

It was so easy, so fun well, less fun about the shot stuff but all the phlebotomists were there cheering you on, Rubin said.

The event was in coordination with Hillel at UCLA and GeneTestNow (, an organization encouraging Jews to undergo genetic screening before starting a family. The latter is an initiative of the Doris Factor Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and supported in part by TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal.

The same event was held a day earlier at Hillel at USC. Together, the two-day project attracted nearly 100 people, according to one of Progenitys project leaders. Participants will receive their test results offered for $25 to those with insurance after a few weeks.

Through tests like these, people can learn which genetic diseases they carry, even though they do not show its traits or symptoms. Because most Jewish genetic diseases are recessive, both parents need to be a carrier for a disease to impact the health of a child.

The discomfort of getting blood drawn, Rubin said, was more than worth it when considering the risks of not knowing whether she has the recessive genes carried by many Jews.

For Ashkenazim with roots in Central and Eastern Europe, that could mean one of 19 genetic diseases. Not just high-profile ones like Tay-Sachs disease, but also lesser-known illnesses like nemaline myopathy, a muscle disorder, and Canavan disease, a progressive, fatal neurological disease.

Debby Hirshman, a consultant who traveled from New York to help organize the events, recalled meeting a Jewish couple in Atlanta who were tragically impacted by not having a genetic test done that was comprehensive enough.

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Jewish genetic testing offered

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