Jewish Senior Living magazine   2015/2016


A major new discovery by Jewish Home research scientist Dr. Edward Goetzl, working with scientists from the University of California, San Francisco and other institutions, will enable neurologists to predict whether a person will have Alzheimer’s disease at least 10 years before the onset of symptoms.

 Dr. Goetzl

Jewish Senior Living sat down to talk about the findings with Dr. Goetzl, UCSF professor emeritus, and Dr. Christine Ritchie, Jewish Home-based UCSF Harris Fishbon Distinguished Professor in Clinical Translational Research in Aging.

Jewish Senior Living: Let’s get right down to it. Tell us what you’ve learned.

Dr. Goetzl: Simply stated, we’ve found that by analyzing a certain particle in the blood, we can determine if an individual will have Alzheimer’s disease long before the appearance of neurological signs. Our studies of about 174 cases have proven to be 98 percent accurate.

This information is present in exosomes, a particle that has broken off from a cell but still carries the constituents of the cell it came from. We learned how to isolate the exosomes and pull out those that came from neurons in the brain. These are identifiers that tell about the health or well-being of the brain and they’re in the blood – an environment where we can look at them.

Dr. Ritchie: We used to consider exosomes debris in the blood much like interstellar matter found in space. So this is a significant discovery.

JSL: Since there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s as yet, what are the benefits of this discovery?

Dr. Goetzl: Early diagnosis could lead to better results from existing drugs. Currently, by the time there are enough symptoms to diagnose Alzheimer’s, the cells are dead. There are drugs out now that can make a difference if people begin to use them before the cells die.

JSL: Why did you embark on this research at the Jewish Home?

Dr. Ritchie: The Jewish Home offers a wealth of opportunities for studying the diseases and deficits of older adults. There’s the Home’s senior population and the medical staff who are experts in so many fields relating to aging. Research that has taken place over the last years at the Home is an important resource, along with the partnerships developed with other organizations such as UCSF and the National Institute on Aging. If the Jewish Home wasn’t here, a lot of the good work Dr. Goetzl’s doing wouldn’t happen.

Dr. Goetzl: Here’s one example. For comparison purposes, we needed blood samples from people over time – from those who had Alzheimer’s, developed Alzheimer’s, and did not develop Alzheimer’s – which we were able to get from donated blood samples that UCSF researcher Dr. Janice Schwartz, through her work at the Jewish Home, has been saving since 2000. Using these samples, we were able to predict whether Alzheimer’s was present, and confirm it through records of Jewish Home residents.

JSL: What’s next?

Dr. Goetzl: We’re working now to meet certain criteria in order to begin testing in greater numbers. Once that investigation’s completed, we’ll begin clinical trials. We hope the test will be available to the public from neurologists in about two years’ time.


The Jewish Home is gearing up to participate in a new study on how to improve the prescribing of medicine in older adults with complex medical conditions.

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Center for Research on Aging Overview

The number of people over the age of 65 years is increasing in both raw numbers and as a percentage of the total world and United States population. The needs of people between the ages of 65 and 75 and those over 75 or 80 years of age differ, yet we do not know how to best manage health-related disorders in the very oldest age groups.

As a leader in geriatric care, the Jewish Home has had longstanding collaborations with the region’s top academic institutions and organizations serving the elderly. These relationships coalesced in the formation of a joint Long-Term Care Center for Research on Aging with the (Goldman) Institute on Aging in 1997 and the establishment of a research department at the Jewish Home in 2000. In 2005, the Jewish Home’s research activities became independent under the direction of the research department, culminating in the creation of the Center for Research on Aging.

Our mission is to discover solutions to health-related challenges encountered by older people at the Jewish Home and in the greater community, here and now.

The Center for Research on Aging provides opportunities for scholarship and clinically based research. The role of the Center for Research on Aging is to bridge the gap between discovery to the translation of these discoveries to beneficial use in older people. Collaborations with academic and community-based researchers and healthcare workers are welcomed.

Edward Goetzl

According to Jewish Home research scientist Dr. Edward Goetzl, analyzing a certain particle in the blood to achieve early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s could lead to better results from existing drugs.

Janice Schwartz

Through her work at the Jewish Home, UCSF researcher Dr. Janice Schwartz was able to provide donated blood samples she had been saving since 2000.

Christine Ritchie

Dr. Christine Ritchie, Jewish Home-based UCSF Harris Fishbon Distinguished Professor in Clinical Translational Research in Aging.

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