Researchers uncover dementia gene

Affects up to 100,000 Canadians. Discovery will allow scientists to seek cure for disease that kills within 10 years

NICHOLAS READ, CanWest News Service; CP contributed to this report

Published: Monday, July 17, 2006

Two University of B.C. researchers have helped discover a genetic mutation that can cause the second-most-common form of dementia in people 65 and under.

Dr. Ian Mackenzie of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Dr. Howard Feldman, director of the UBC Hospital Clinic for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, helped identify the gene that can cause frontotemporal dementia along with researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Florida.

FTD, which occurs mainly in people in their 50s and early 60s, results in severe personality changes, language problems and death within five to 10 years of its onset.

The condition represents about 15 per cent of all dementia cases worldwide, including up to an estimated 100,000 in Canada.

The research was published Sunday in the online edition of Nature magazine.

Working with their Florida colleagues, Feldman and Mackenzie identified the gene responsible for the production of a protein called progranulin, which aids cell growth and function.

People affected with the genetic form of FTD fail to produce sufficient levels of this protein, and this is believed to lead to the disease.

The genetic disorder is thought to cause FTD in 25 to 50 per cent of all people suffering from it. It is distinct from Alzheimer’s disease in that people affected with it retain their memory.

Doctors don’t yet understand the cause of FTD in other sufferers.

However, when genetics are responsible for FTD, up to half of all family members that carry the mutated gene can be affected by it.

“It’s a dementia that occurs in middle life, meaning the most typical patients we see are in their 50s and 60s,” Feldman said in a phone interview.

“They’re still often in employment and looking after youngish families. So it’s a very devastating illness.”

While there is still no cure, the discovery means a search for one can begin.

“There’s an under-expression of a growth factor that helps nerve cells function and survive,” Feldman said.

“So the idea would be to find a way now to enhance the body’s ability to produce the protein or to see if we can supplement its production somehow. This may some day take the curse of the illness away.”

The current discovery also means members of families in which the disease is known to occur can undergo genetic testing to see if they are affected by it.

The disease also occurs sporadically in people, though researchers don’t know how or why.

But Mackenzie said it should now be possible to test for progranulin levels in these patients as well.

FTD sufferer Lynn Jackson, 51, of Richmond, B.C., called the discovery “a great thing.”

“Now that they have the cause, then they’ll be able to find the cure more easily,” Jackson said.

She was diagnosed in 1999, and now experiences problems with her speech and movement. She also had to quit her job and go on long-term medical disability insurance.

Despite her enthusiasm for the UBC discovery, she is not counting on a cure being found in time to save her.

“I don’t know if I’m that hopeful for myself because it will take time to get a cure,” Jackson said.

FTD is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, psychosis or even alcoholism.

Mackenzie said people suffering from FTD can become either withdrawn or display inappropriate emotional outbursts, such as laughing or crying at the wrong time.

They also may develop inappropriate social behaviour such as swearing, masturbating in public or shoplifting.

“They lose their self-awareness so they don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong,” Mackenzie said.

Vancouver Sun

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006


Traditional American Indian Treatment of Diabetes

American Indian Heritage Month, Nov. 2005
Diabetes Awareness Day
Authors: Jane Ely, Ph. D., and Sam Beeler, Ph. D.

Presented by Jane Ely, Nov. 19, 2005

Copyright © 2005 Dr. Jane Ely Let me begin by thanking the sponsors and coordinators of this event, the Hawaiian Health Guide, Katie Fisher and Michael Saiz; the Kahuna Valley Peace Project; HMSA; the Hawaiian Tourism Authority; Wilcox Health; and the Radisson Beach Hotel.

Also, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Hawaiian Nation, the spirits and ancestors of this land upon which we reside; and my ancestral American Indian elders who have walked before me— I give gratitude, and thanks for all you have taught through your living-wisdom ways, and by example in ‘walking the talk’. I would also like to offer this paper in support of health, healing and a returning to the teachings of traditional indigenous wisdom, knowledge, and application for our children, the generations who will follow in our footsteps.

Introduction: This paper is in two parts; the first aspect outlines facts, and statistics that are very rarely shared on the epidemic of diabetes in the American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian populations. The second half of the paper explores Traditional Healing Approaches from my American Indian background as a healer, counselor and practitioner. I have also included resources, references and sources for further reading and study for those who are interested, at the conclusion of this paper.

Article/Paper at:

Embryonic stem cells may lead to AIDS cure

Reported by Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist

Laboratory studies reveal how human embryonic stem cells can turn into T helper cells, which are destroyed in HIV/AIDS.
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be turned into a large range of functioning cells and so have a lot of potential for therapy in conditions like diabetes and heart disease. A team at the University of California, Los Angeles, AIDS Institute now reveal hESCs can be turned into T-helper cells, which has big implications for AIDS treatment.

This is the first time that T cells, a major component of the immune system, have been derived from hESCs. The researchers cultured hESCs and converted them into blood-forming cells. Then the cells were injected into a human thymus gland implanted into a mouse, which revealed that T-cells can be formed from the hESCs. The findings showed that it is possible to work out the signals that control development of hESCs into T cells. It may be possible to use this in the treatment of HIV/AIDS by allowing the repopulation of the patient’s immune system.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online 3rd July 2006

Traditional cures alive and well

Aileen McCabe, CanWest News Service

Published: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

SHANGHAI – When the Chinese have a medical complaint, only about 30 per cent of them go to their traditional healers for help.

It is usually for a chronic problem like asthma, too, not an emergency.

If they break a leg, the Chinese are more likely than not to visit a western-trained doctor.

Still, calling traditional Chinese medicine — or TCM — “alternative,” as is often done in the West, would be nonsense when you consider that more than 330 million people here rely on it to cure what ails them.

You see hundreds of them in the crowded wards at Yue Yang Hospital in Shanghai. One is stretched out on a bed, his lower back pierced with super-fine needles. Another sits astride a chair as a doctor slowly rubs his neck. Still another is walking around with an array of small bell jars securely stuck to his back by suction.

It is a strange scene for anyone familiar with hospitals in Canada. Strange, too, are the number of foreigners you see making hospital rounds.

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Nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about the safety of artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose

Plastics chemical bisphenol A found to promote prostate cancer in animal studies

Looking east…for medicinal alternatives

By Jojo Santo Tomas
Pacific Sunday News

To those unfamiliar with its history, Oriental medicine practices might sound outlandish. Herb concoctions to prevent hair loss. Strategically placed needles to correct high blood pressure. Specialty massages to prevent fatigue. And there’s even Medical Chi Gong, a technique that Oriental medicine doctors use to diagnose a patient over the phone — even if the two are a continent apart.

But in a modern world whose health concerns are mostly addressed by modern medicine, one Oriental medicine practitioner is doing his best to revive interest in the ancient art of healing.

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