Using Genomics for Safer, Personalized Medicine Choices for Kids

A new research study at Boston Children’s Hospital, in partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute, is using genetic information to predict children’s reactions to medications. The goal is to enable clinicians to select a more personalized therapy for each patient.

Personalized medicine for kids

2012: Banner Year for New Drugs

Fueled by new cancer therapeutics, last year the annual new molecular and biological entity approval count from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saw its highest year since 1997. One-third of the novel products approved by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) are used to treat cancers of the blood, breast, colon, prostate, skin and thyroid.

FDA approved

A Light Switch to Turn Specific Neurons On and Off

Ed Boyden is creating new brains. A pioneer in the field of optogenetics, he is the founder and principal investigator of the synthetic neurobiology group at the MIT Media Lab, which invents technologies to reveal how cognition and emotion arise from brain networks — and to enable systematic repair of disorders such as epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd).

Using a combination of lasers and genetic engineering, Boyden’s lab implants brains with optical fibers that allow them to activate special proteins in specific neurons and see their connections. In addition to helping create detailed maps of brain circuitry, the engineering of these cells has been used to cure blindness in mice, and could point the way to cures for Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. On the horizon: ways of connecting to the brain via prosthetics.

By inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins into brain cells, neurons can be selectively activated or de-activated with fiber-optic implants. Check out Boyden’s demonstration at TED2011 below.

Schizophrenia and Epilepsy May be Linked, Shared Cause Not Yet Known

A recent study published in the journal Epilepsia indicates that there is a bidirectional relationship between schizophrenia and epilepsy [1]. This means that people with schizophrenia are at a higher risk of developing epilepsy, and those with epilepsy face a higher risk of developing schizophrenia. The fact that each disorder acts as a risk factor for the other indicates that the two may share some underlying causative factors, be they genetic, environmental, or neurological in origin.

Schizophrenia and epilepsy

Repurposing Existing Medicines for New Indications

Researchers have developed an innovative way to predict new uses for existing medicines. Using computers and genomic information, scientists at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, have established a method to identify FDA-approved drugs that may work against diseases they weren’t originally designed to combat. New research published in two articles in the August 17th online issue of Science Translational Medicine highlights two such repurposed drugs that may be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease and lung cancer [1-2].

Repurposing drugs