The Brain

Thu, 2013/02/28 - 11:38am | Your editor
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The next advance in science was called for during the State of the Union address by Pres. Obama: to work on the human mind. Here is a followup as reported by Dow-Jones from London about an article published in The Lancet about a new study of mental illness. DJ reports: “Scientists have identified genetic risk factors behind five major psychiatric disorders for the first time, a discovery that could pave the way for a new approach to pharmaceutical treatments for these conditions.”

The 5 mental illnesses with a genetic cause are autism, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. Because very little is known about its biological basis or what triggers mental illnesses, the study breaks important new ground. The reported study involved scanning the genomes of over 33,000 people to find variations in their genes. Two genes involved in the balancing of calcium levels in brain cells appear to be linked to these mental illnesses or disorders.

“Genetics...can contribute to prediction and prevention of psychiatric diseases, along with the identification of molecular targets for new generations of psychotropic drugs," Alessandro Serretti and Chiara Fabbri, psychiatric specialists at University of Bologna, wrote in a companion article published alongside the genetic findings in The Lancet.

Two of our shares focus to central nervous system and brain disorders, a very difficult area for research. One is working on overcoming the brain-body barrier which stops drugs from acting in the brain. The other has increased its work on brain diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases and multiple sclerosis, seeking common features in how they affect the brain. Mental illnesses are a major cost for healthcare systems which lack drugs for long-term affective treatment. About a third of patients in European healthcare systems suffer from brain disorders. In the US, 11% of the population takes antidepressants. Yet drug research at many major pharmaceutical houses is abandoning the mental health area because it is so hard to do statistically valid trials of new psychiatric drugs.


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More for paid subscribers including the name of the companies working in the brain area follows. There are also good results from a European company, irrelevant results from another, and lousy ones from a Latin American company. Plus fund news.

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