GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sparking production of a hormone in the brain that people with epilepsy often lack could prevent debilitating seizures, University of Florida researchers have discovered.
The researchers used gene therapy in rats to stimulate production of somatostatin, a seizure-stopping chemical that naturally occurs in the brain. The study was published in the February issue of the journal Neuroscience Letters.
The choice of somatostatin was not random. A connection between somatostatin and epilepsy was already suspected.
People with epilepsy tend to have lower levels of the hormone somatostatin, as do people with Alzheimer’s disease. Although somatostatin, which belongs to a group of protein-like molecules called neuropeptides, is present in the brains of people with epilepsy, scientists have shown that its levels decrease during seizures, said Rabia Zafar, the lead author of the paper and a former postdoctoral associate in Carney’s lab.
There's still the issue of safety. Development of safe and effective gene therapy delivery delivery mechanisms for brain cells raise prospects for a wide range of benefits. Imagine altering gene expression levels in the chronically depressed for example. Or raise expression of genes associated with higher IQ once the genetic variants that control intelligence are identified. Also, gene therapies will eventually be used to do repair of aging brains.
At the same time, powerful ways to permanently alter brain metabolism raise worrisome prospects as well. Imagine lying asleep in a hotel on a business trip, a gas gets released into your hotel room to keep you asleep and then agents for a foreign government inject you with a gene therapy that makes you more risk or less risk averse, more depressed, more pliable, or otherwise altered in ways that gave your competitors an advantage. Will people some day secretly deliver gene therapies to alter the personalities of their lovers or subordinates or bosses? A brain malleable to gene therapy is a brain that can be made to work against its interests.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2012 February 15 09:50 PM Brain Disorder Repair|