Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alzheimer’s to be treated by replacing faulty genes -- one day

Alzheimer’s will be treated or even prevented by replacing faulty genes, an expert in the disease has predicted.  Men and women could be given a nasal spray packed with healthy versions of the defective genes that cause the illness.

Professor Julie Williams, of Cardiff University, said the entire population could eventually be screened in middle-age to identify those at most risk of the memory-robbing disease.

They could then be given cutting-edge gene therapy and other treatments to stop the disease ever developing.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect more than 800,000 Britons, with the number expected to double in a generation as the population ages.

Existing drugs delay the progress of Alzheimer’s, but their failure to tackle the underlying cause in the brain means that the effect quickly wears off and the disease soon takes its devastating course.

The professor, who was given a CBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last year for her work on Alzheimer’s, made the prediction after jointly leading the biggest-ever study into the genetics of the disease.

The landmark study, involving more than 180 researchers from 15 countries, pinpointed 11 genes that raise the risk of Alzheimer’s.

The size of the collaboration allowed them to identify more genes in less than three years than have been found in the past two decades.

By taking the total to 21, it also more than doubles the number of known Alzheimer’s genes, the journal Nature Genetics reports.

Alzheimer’s charities said the ‘exciting’ discovery of genes linked with the disease ‘opens up new avenues to explore in the search for treatments for the condition’.

The new genes were found by comparing the DNA of more than 25,000 people suffering from Alzheimer’s with that of 48,000 people without the disease.

Professor Williams, who is chief scientific adviser to the Welsh Assembly in addition to being a working researcher, said: ‘What surprised us most about the findings was the very strong pattern that showed several genes implicating the body’s immune system in causing dementia.

‘Each individual gene will carry a relatively low risk but when you put all the information together, they are telling us an interesting and novel story and that takes us in a new direction.’

She added that the find needs to be followed up with ‘great urgency’ to determine just how the genes cause dementia. Knowing this will speed the search for new drug treatments.

But another possibility is correcting the flawed DNA, or the genetic variations that cause Alzheimer’s, by giving people a nasal spray packed with healthy genes.

Professor Williams said: ‘I do think that in ten years’ time we might be looking at a genetic therapy. That might be feasible but not quite yet.

‘If you have variation that you know is contributing to a disease, the most effective way of reducing the risk is to change the variation in a very precise way. Genetic therapies will allow you to just change the elements that are contributing to the disease.

She added that ‘in the distant future’ everyone in their 40s or 50s could be screened for dementia genes and given genetic therapy and other treatments in a bid to stop the disease ever developing.

The study also suggested links between Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Hugh Perry of the Medical Research Council, which part-funded the study, as did Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Understanding how our genetic code contributes to Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias and neurodegenerative diseases is a crucial part of the puzzle in learning how we can prevent their devastating effects.’


Kids should spend no more than TWO HOURS online per day, warn doctors

This is just opinion -- relying on a few correlational studies that prove nothing

The recommendations are bound to prompt eye-rolling and LOLs from many teens but an influential pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences.

It's been linked with violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep and a host of other problems. It's not a major cause of these troubles, but 'many parents are clueless' about the profound impact media exposure can have on their children, said Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics policy.

'This is the 21st century and they need to get with it,' said Strasburger, a University of New Mexico adolescent medicine specialist.

The policy is aimed at all kids, including those who use smartphones, computers and other internet-connected devices. It expands the academy's longstanding recommendations on banning televisions from children's and teens' bedrooms and limiting entertainment screen time to no more than two hours daily.

Under the new policy, those two hours include using the internet for entertainment, including Facebook, Twitter, TV and movies; online homework is an exception.

The policy statement cites a 2010 report that found U.S. children aged 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours daily using some kind of entertainment media. Many kids now watch TV online and many send text messages from their bedrooms after 'lights out,' including sexually explicit images by cellphone or internet, yet few parents set rules about media use, the policy says.

'I guarantee you that if you have a 14-year-old boy and he has an internet connection in his bedroom, he is looking at pornography,' Strasburger said.

The policy notes that three-quarters of kids aged 12 to 17 own cellphones; nearly all teens send text messages, and many younger kids have phones giving them online access.

'Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school — it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping' the policy says.

Strasburger said he realizes many kids will scoff at advice from pediatricians — or any adults.

'After all, they're the experts! We're media-Neanderthals to them,' he said. But he said he hopes it will lead to more limits from parents and schools, and more government research on the effects of media.

The policy was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics. It comes two weeks after police arrested two Florida girls accused of bullying a classmate who committed suicide. Police say one of the girls recently boasted online about the bullying and the local sheriff questioned why the suspects' parents hadn't restricted their internet use.


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