Monthly Archives: May 2013

On 29 May, the Public Health Committee in the European Parliament endorsed draft EU rules for clinical trials of new medicines

The new regulation is designed to encourage research while protecting patients’ rights and making simpler, more uniform rules. The new text makes specific provision for low-risk trials, clarifies the duties of ethics committees and details how to obtain informed consent from patients. It also simplifies reporting procedures and empowers the Commission to conduct checks. Finally, it stipulates that member states must respond to applications from clinical trial sponsors within fixed deadlines.

Nature Neuroscience recently published 25 new candidate genes for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Researchers found the genes by sequencing the exomes of patient-parent trios. Variations within the genes must have arisen de novo in each offspring, according to the research, because they were not present in either the father or the mother.

The same trio technique could offer insights into other conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, said study senior author Aaron Gitler of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

The 25 genes perform a variety of functions, but five of them are involved in chromatin remodeling, the process by which proteins unwind or rewind DNA packaging to regulate transcription. 

More information at the link below:

A new study shows that the results could be used in future drug trials for people who are gene positive for HD but who are not yet showing overt symptoms.

Scientists have identified a set of tests that could help identify whether and how Huntington’s disease (HD) is progressing in groups of people who are not yet showing symptoms.
 
The latest findings from the TRACK-HD study, published in The Lancet Neurology, could be used to assess whether potential new treatments are slowing the disease – up to 10 years before the development of noticeable symptoms.
 
Lead author Sarah Tabrizi from University College London’s Institute of Neurology explained that currently, the effectiveness of a new drug is decided by its ability to treat symptoms.
 
"These new tests could be used in future preventative drug trials in individuals who are gene positive for HD but are not yet showing overt motor symptoms. These people have the most to gain by initiating treatment early to delay the start of these overt symptoms and give them a high quality of life for a longer period of time."

More information available at the links below:

A major 18-month human drug trial gets under way this week to see whether a blood pressure medication can slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms

The study - NILVAD (nilvadipine in Alzheimer’s disease) involves nine countries and has funding worth €6 million provided by the European Community’s seventh framework programme research budget.

There has been no new drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s since 2002 and many originally promising lines of research for new treatments have come to nothing.

More information available at the links below:

A recent research study identified a previously unknown cellular process that causes selective motor neuron degeneration

A recent research study identified a previously unknown cellular process that causes selective motor neuron degeneration, but it also appears to tie together several of the pieces of the pathological jigsaw in motor neuron disease:

  • disruption of RNA metabolism
  • oxidative stress and
  • programmed cell death pathways

Published in the journal Nature, from an international consortium, led by the scientists from the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, the researchers created a mouse that has a defect in an enzyme called CLP1 and these mice develop progressive motor neuron degeneration.

Full article is available at the link below:

The interim report of the JUMPAHEAD FP7 action to support JPND has been highlighted on the CORDIS Technology Workplace website.

The JUMPAHEAD project is a coordination action that supports the implementation of JPND to combat neurodegenerative diseases.  It is a three year project funded by an FP7 2 million euro grant GA no. 260774.

JUMPAHEAD has allowed JPND to create a unique European collaborative research organization, with the necessary JPND activities formally organized into work packages. This organization has since established a comprehensive research strategy, a realistically-phased implementation plan, and has been widely disseminated to other Joint Programing Initiatives, offering a framework and valuable experience to develop their efforts more rapidly and efficiently. 

Click on the links below to access the interim report summary in a number of languages:

English German French Italian

The interim report was also highlighted in an article in the Research EU magazine produced by CORDIS. 

For more information on JUMPAHEAD, click here or on the link below:

The final report from the Joint Programming Conference 2013, Dublin, is now available

The event entitled “Agenda for the Future & Achievements to Date” took place in Dublin on the 28th February-1st March 2013, under the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, with support from the European Commission.

The report is available for download here, or at the link below:

JPND was heavily represented on the conference programme, with Chair Philippe Amouyel speaking at the first plenary session. The JPND presentations are available here or at the second link below.

Click here for photos from the event  

European Month of the Brain kicks off

At the start of its European Month of the Brain, the European Commission has announced funding of around 150 million euros for 20 new international brain research projects, bringing the total European Union (EU) investment in brain research since 2007 to over 1.9 billion euros.

More information at the first link below:

More than 50 events on the human brain are on the ‘European Month of the Brain’ programme, from conferences, workshops and meetings to summer schools and teaching courses. 

Activities in your country are available here or at the second link below:

No firm evidence of benefit for any treatment or approach

A systematic review has examined the best 32 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating treatments for cognitive decline, including drug treatments, hormone therapies, nutritional supplements, physical activity and cognitive exercises. The authors looked comprehensively at pharmacological treatments and non-pharmacological treatments in healthy adults. The study was recently published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

There was no firm evidence that pharmacological treatments – such as cholinesterase inhibitors, NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonists or vitamin pills – are of any benefit for preventing cognitive decline. Oestrogen therapies may actually cause a decline in memory.

Contrary to other research, there was only inconsistent evidence concerning the benefits of physical activity for preventing cognitive decline. The authors discovered some evidence (from only three studies) that brain training exercises might help prevent cognitive decline; as measured in terms of auditory memory (for spoken information) and attention.

The authors conclude that most treatments and approaches for preventing cognitive decline do not appear to work (or may occasionally be harmful), and that even the benefits of cognitive training remain uncertain. The studies examined so far have been variable in quality, so further high-quality research is needed.

Music effective for reducing anxiety and managing BPSD

The authors of this study investigated the effects of music therapy on the Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD), cognitive function and activities of daily living in patients with dementia.

Indications are that music therapy is effective for reducing anxiety and managing BPSD.

The full study, published in Ageing Research Reviews, is available at the link below: