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Novel gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease clears safety hurdle

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A closely-watched prototype therapy to inject corrective genes into the brain to treat Parkinson’s disease has cleared an important safety hurdle, doctors said Friday.

Tested on 15 volunteers with an advanced form of the degenerative nerve disease, the technique proved safe and the results were encouraging, they said.

The experiment aims to reverse the lack of a brain chemical called dopamine, which is essential for motor skills.

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It entails tucking three genes into a disabled horse virus of the family lentiviruses.

The modified virus is then injected directly into a specialised area of the brain, where it infiltrates cells. In doing so, it delivers corrective pieces of DNA, prompting defective brain cells to once again start producing dopamine.

Called ProSavin, the British-designed treatment was authorised for tests on humans after it was tried on lab monkeys.

It is being closely watched by specialists to see if it works better than conventional therapies — the veteran drug levodopa or electrical stimulation of the brain — or another experimental gene technique which uses a modified cold virus.

French neurosurgeon Stephane Palfi, who led the early-stage trial published in The Lancet, said 15 patients aged 48-65 were given the genes in one of three doses.

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They developed better coordination and balance, had less muscle twitching and improved speech.

Assessed at least 12 months after the injection, “motor symptoms remained improved in all the patients,” Palfi said.

“In those patients who were first operated upon, the improvement lasted up to four years.”

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Improvements were “dose-related,” said Palfi — meaning the higher the dose, the greater the progress.

Beyond four years, though, improvements fell back as the disease advanced, he said.

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In a commentary also published by The Lancet, researcher Jon Stoessl at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said the treatment did not address non-motor problems also caused by the disease.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease in which the patient loses muscle flexibility and coordination, and often develops involuntary twitches and tremors.

Non-motor symptoms include cognitive and behavioural problems which can “have a greater effect on quality of life than motor dysfunction,” Stoessl noted.

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The disease affects about five million people, according to the report.

[Image: “Nurse Holding Kind Elderly Lady’s Hands In Bed” via Shutterstock]


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Woman allegedly involved in Central Park scandal placed on leave from job: ‘We do not condone racism’

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Video circulated on social media on Memorial Day of a woman in Central Park claiming she was calling 911 to falsely claim an "African-American man" was threatening her life.

It reportedly started after he filmed her walking her dog without a leash.

https://twitter.com/melodyMcooper/status/1264965252866641920

Internet sleuths worked to identify the woman. During the day on Monday, rumors of her identity spread online.

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Scientists fight online coronavirus misinformation war

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With cat photos and sometimes scathing irony, Mathieu Rebeaud, a Swiss-based researcher in biochemistry, has nearly tripled his Twitter following since the coronavirus pandemic began.

With 14,000 followers, he posts almost daily, giving explanations on the latest scientific research and, in particular, aims to fight misinformation that spreads as fast as the virus itself.

He is among a growing number of doctors, academics and institutions who in recent weeks have adapted and amplified their scientific messaging in hopes of countering what has been termed an infodemic -- a deluge of information, including widespread false claims, which experts say can pose a serious threat to public health.

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Ted Cruz doesn’t want people shamed with body bags for going to beach: ‘Please stop the hate’

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In early May, Florida attorney Daniel Uhlfelder made news by dressing up as the Grim Reaper in an attempt to scare people from crowding beaches during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Days later, he escalated by laying out body bags on the steps of the Florida capitol building in Tallahassee.

He escalated further on Saturday by announcing he would be handing out body bags to Florida beachgoers and started a fundraiser with the funds going to two progressive Political Action Committees.

https://twitter.com/DWUhlfelderLaw/status/1264412394794647552

The effort caught the eye of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

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