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Scientists develop a Drug likely to benefit people with Alzheimer’s Disease

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FILE - An image shows activity in a human brain. Scientists have developed a drug capable of sweeping away abnormal protein clumps in the brain which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. VOA

Washington, Jan 27, 2017: Scientists have developed a drug they hope will benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts an estimated 44 million people around the world. The new compound sweeps away abnormal protein clumps in the brain which are a hallmark of the neurodegenerative disorder.

In a study reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers describe how a synthetic drug, called antisense oligoneucleotide, reduced the production and in some cases cleared clumps of tau in the brain.

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Tau bundles are one of the hallmarks of the disease, along with beta amyloid deposits, another destructive protein.

By stopping the formation of tau, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, found they could extend the lives of mice that were bred to have collections of human tau in their brains.

Lead author Sara DeVos said scientists saw an improvement in their condition.

“So these mice die earlier than normal. So when we treat with our drug, the mice live longer and we can also prevent neurons from dying. So if we give this drug, the neurons will no longer die as a result of these tau bundles,” said DeVos

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The investigators also tested the compound in monkeys and saw positive results.

FILE – Patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia are seen during a therapy session. Alzheimer’s afflicts an estimated 44 million people around the world. VOA

Human testing expected soon

Antisense oligneucleotide targets the genetic instructions for building tau. The molecule binds to messenger RNA, which carries out the DNA blueprint for life, preventing tau from being produced. The drug can be made to target RNA for destruction of any protein, said scientists.

Tim Miller, a professor of neurology at Washington University and senior author of the study, hopes the drug, developed with Ionis Pharmaceuticals, will soon be tested in humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The most exciting and most interesting … is to apply this to people who we presume have abnormal tau to test the hypothesis whether lowering tau in those people will be of benefit to those people,” he said.

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Other types of antisense oligoneucleotides have been approved by U.S. regulators and are being used to treat the neurodegenerative disease muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy. The compound is in clinical trials for Huntington’s disease and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Because tau deposits are only a piece of the puzzle that causes Alzheimer’s, the investigators envision using the drug with other treatments, also in development.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which primarily strikes senior adults, leading to a decline in mental functioning and eventually death. (VOA)

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Scientists: Nations Need Stronger Pledges to Curb Climate Change

Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments

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Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A woman wearing a mask walks past buildings on a polluted day in Handan, Hebei province, China, Jan. 12, 2019. China is reportedly the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. VOA

The vast majority of national commitments in the 2015 Paris Agreement are inadequate to prevent the worst effects of global warming, scientists said on Tuesday, naming the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting countries as among those that must ratchet up their efforts.

“Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments” in next month’s United Nation’s climate summit in Spain, said Robert Watson, lead author of the report by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.

The report ranked nearly 75%, or 136, of the pledges as insufficient, including ones by major carbon emitters China, the United States, and India. A dozen, by countries including Australia, Japan and Brazil, were judged only partially sufficient.

Countries at next month’s summit in Madrid will hash out some details of the international pact to curb warming. Chile withdrew as host following weeks of riots protesting inequality.

Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A protestor holds a placard in front of the India Gate during a protest demanding government to take immediate steps to control air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 5, 2019. VOA

Of the 184 pledges countries made under the climate agreement, only 36 are ambitious enough to help reach the agreement’s goal of keeping global warming less than 1.5 Celsius (2.7 F) above pre-industrial levels, the report said.

Most of those 36 are by countries in the European Union.

Watson, a former chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the report could be read two ways: “You can read ‘My God it’s hopeless’, or ‘My God this is a wake up call.'”

Watson estimated that even if all nations meet their existing pledges, the world would be headed for temperature rise of between 3 and 3.5 degrees Celsius, which could lead to more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

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The report rated the European Union’s 28 member states as having sufficient pledges because they aim to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2030.

It ranked the United States as insufficient because President Donald Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s climate policies and yanked Washington out of the pact. The administration, which argues that Paris Agreement would cost U.S. taxpayers too much money, filed official paperwork on Monday to withdraw.

China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, also came in as insufficient because their pledges focus on carbon intensity targets, which lower emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or GDP. Because those economies are growing and coal produces much of their electricity, total emissions have risen sharply even though carbon intensity levels in China and India have fallen. (VOA)