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Could Gene Expression be the Key to Early Alzheimer's Detection? Assuta Ashdod Hospital Investigates

Assuta Ashdod Hospital Investigates

Saliva swab (illustrative). Credit: INGimage

Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital is participating in a joint study with Ben-Gurion University in the Negev to utilize DNA sequencing and gene expression as possible predictors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Assuta Ashdod’s emerging infectious disease lab took saliva samples from Alzheimer’s patients in the neurology department to analyze gene expression.

“When we are talking about gene expression, we don’t want to look at the DNA itself, but at how the DNA is being expressed,” said Dr. Nadav Sorek, head of the Emerging Infectious Disease Center and Microbiology Lab at Assuta Ashdod.

DNA is our genetic material, which is constantly being translated into proteins in a process called gene expression. Genes change during our lives, based on age, sex, day-to-day activity and more. Analyzing gene expression will help the lab to find the point where Alzheimer’s disease might be detected.

It actually helps you to manage the hospital in a better way because you understand where the hotspots are for infections.

The lab first sequences the DNA and then analyzes the genes expressed.

Sorek’s team plans to compare the gene expression of diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients with samples from the general population to see if certain genes show up in Alzheimer’s patients.

“Now, we can ask, if we go back six or 10 years, can we find these genes being expressed? Meaning we can actually identify Alzheimer's at a very early stage,” Sorek said.

Dr. Nadav Sorek

The same technology is also being used to track infections. Nosocomial infections, or healthcare-associated infections, are infections contracted within a hospital.

Studies show that patients who stay at any hospital for over seven days have a 40% chance of contracting an infection or bacteria, according to Sorek. The CDC reports about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one nosocomial infection on any given day.

“The problem is that we are not really good at understanding how these infections occur,” Sorek said. “So what we are doing now is looking at causality.”

The team is using BGU’s DNA sequencing and gene expression analysis to track where the majority of patients are getting infected within the hospital.

“It actually helps you to manage the hospital in a better way because you understand where the hotspots are for infections and you can put all of your efforts there,” Sorek said.


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