This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

September 20, 2006

Researchers Hot on the Trail of Rare Diseases

Global investment in research and development into causes and cures of disease is higher than ever. Although it usually takes 14 years to move a drug from discovery to market, Big Pharma is investing billions of dollars to find answers. Not surprisingly, most of the money for research is spent on diseases that affect large numbers of people. Fortunately, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and disease-related non-profit organizations fund research to cure the more unusual diseases.

Recently researchers isolated the gene for Huntington's Disease, an inherited, 'neuro-degenerative' genetic brain disorder affecting about 35,000 people in North America. The genetic flaw causes brain cells to start dying at around age 30. As a result of the efforts of Laura's Hope and related organizations, tremendous progress has been realized in the last year.

Lesser known is Myositis, a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the body's muscle system. Myositis affects about 50,000 people in the United States, plus patients who have myositis but are misdiagnosed. NIH awarded a $7 million research grant to Chester Oddis, MD, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He leads a double-blind randomized study to investigate myositis patients who have not responded well to traditional therapies.

The study is expected to prove the value of using a pharmaceutical called Rituximab, a novel biologic agent which suppresses antibody production within the immune system, breaking the cycle that causes the inflammation of Myositis.

The whole field of biogenetics is on the brink of tremendous medical discoveries; mapping of the human genome has created a huge new platform for advancement. In his book "The Fantastic Voyage", artificial intelligence executive Ray Kurzweil makes a convincing case that we must "live long enough to live forever." It is these types of breakthroughs that support his forecast.

September 21st is The Myositis Association will be running Myositis Awareness Day, drawing attention to this rare disease and the need to discover a cure for it. Watch for those who suffer from a rare disease demand more attention and their share of the increasing funds devoted to new technologies that might ultimately lead to a cure for the most obscure diseases.

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