“From Bench to Bedside in a Decade” 2010
May 5, 2010

            The Progeria Research Foundation hosted their tenth international scientific workshop on Progeria, titled “From Bench to Bedside in a Decade” at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center in Boston, Mass.  The three-day event was held April 11-12, 2010.  Since PRF was founded in 1999, they have held five similar events.  In these ten years, definitive tests to diagnose  Progeria and possible treatments have been discovered.  The workshops are especially significant to everyone working towards Progeria research, as this is the culmination of everything they work for.  The workshop hosted 130 scientists from ten different countries, which demonstrates how research has become an international effort.

            The very first workshop in 2001 was a joint effort from the National Institute of Health and PRF.  It was here that Dr. Leslie Gordon announced PRF would create a cell and tissue bank and database to keep detailed information about children with Progeria.  

            The itinerary for PRF’s tenth anniversary workshop: “From Bench to Bedside in a Decade”  The idea behind the workshops, which are held every two years, is to facilitate discussion and promote progress about Progeria among a growing number of researchers.

            The topics included a discussion on living with Progeria, including a round table question and answer session from the patients’ perspective.  Audrey Gordon is the President and Executive Director for PRF.  She said this part of the workshop was exceptionally touching. 

Once you meet them it’s amazing, I mean they’re such great kids and they’re really very dynamic and fun and truthful about everything, about all the questions that were asked and answered, said Gordon. 

     Three families attended the workshop; one from England, one from Canada and one from the United States. Tina Pickard’s son, Zach, is three years old and has Progeria.  She said the opportunity to meet the researchers working for a cure for her son was beneficial to her family and the researchers alike.

Just to finally be able to say, oh, that is a child with Progeria. And you know, the same for us, when we walk in and you’re looking at these doctors and you’re like wow, they do this for a living, this is their job and they’re trying to find a cure for my son. It’s an overwhelming feeling, it’s really sweet, said Pickard.

            Doctors from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital Boston, and Brigham & Women’s Hospital talked about new findings as well as treatment with the FTI drugs in children with Progeria.   Other experts discussed the relation of cardiovascular disease in mouse models to humans. 

            The workshop was named “From Bench to Bedside in a Decade” because the Progeria Research Foundation has come a great way in ten years.  PRF is used as a model for other foundations and organizations looking to start up.  Audrey Gordon says this all happens with a lot of support.

Ten years is an unheard of amount of time to go from start to drug trial – other organizations use us as a model. We started off with a vision and it really all comes together – from our cell bank for researching to doing the research.  It all is a huge building block in just ten years.  [There’s] never a dull moment, said Gordon.

            The National Institute of Health issued a fact sheet on Progeria in 2007 detailing the scarcities of research over the past thirty years, what was known in 2007, and what the outlook was for ‘tomorrow.’  Since 2007, much can be added to this fact sheet.  This is a testament to the work and research that has been devoted to Progeria.

View this document on Scribd

            The article questions the role of the LMNA gene in Progeria and its relation.  It is now known that a mutation in this gene leads to Progeria.   The article says future research may provide insight into heart disease, an affliction that a wide population experiences aside from patients with Progeria.  Now, “there is a biological link between the Progeria disease process and aging and heart disease,” said Audrey Gordon, President and Executive Director of PRF.  The article notes future lab research is preparing for the first clinical trial using Farnesyltransferase inhibitors to treat Progeria.  Now, PRF is conducting its second clinical triple-drug trial which adds two other drugs in addition to the FTI treatment.

            While a lot has happened in a short time, there are still a lot of questions.  George Martin from the University of Washington spoke at the workshop about the unanswered questions regarding normal aging and aging in Progeria patients.  Susan Rosenblatt is the executive assistant and volunteer coordinator for PRF. She says being able to see everyone come together every two years for these workshops is an amazing experience, even if you don’t under the science aspect.

I’m always amazed at the way, from a layperson’s point of view, I don’t understand a lot of the science but I’m really, what I find remarkable is how people work together to study Progeria and to move on from the workshop and form new partnerships for the future to study. It gives me a window into that whole piece of research that I can’t participate in but I constantly marvel at, said Rosenblatt.

            There is much hope for the future.  New insights and targets were considered among the experts at the workshop.  “So, while at one point people are very excited about all that’s happened and all the knowledge we now have,” said Gordon, “there’s also the flip side that says okay, now there’s a lot more work to do.”

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UK Reunion 2010
April 29, 2010

     Hayley Okines is a 12 year old girl from the UK living with Progeria.  She is raising money to fund a 2010 UK Reunion for children around the world with Progeria. The event will be held August 6-12. Hayley and her family are trying to raise £30,000 to make this dream come true.  They have participated in events across the country but want to hold the reunion in the UK for the first time.  So far, twenty four families have been invited and 10 are confirmed to attend.

Courtesy UK Progeria Reunion 2010 Facebook Page

     Hayley’s family said the funds will go towards travel, entertainment, and other expenses.  They are reaching out to many different sources for funding.  The Progeria Family Circle has donated £13,500.  Hayley’s mom, Kerry, said her daughter has been fortunate in her ability to take past trips, but she is hopeful she can fulfill this dream of Hayley’s as well.  Comments from supporters on the “UK Progeria Reunion 2010’s” Facebook page include, “It’s great to see you looking so well, I hope the treatment you receive in Boston continues to help you and I wish you all the best of luck in your fund raising for the reunion. You and your parents are truly an inspiration to us all!”

     Hayley is currently participating in the clinical drug trials with PRF in Boston, Mass.  Hayley recently visited Boston in April to attend the three day workshop attended by scientists from across the world.  

     Hayley’s story is one of hope as this preview of an upcoming documentary about Hayley shows:

Doctor who helped identify all human DNA honored
March 29, 2010

     One of the doctors who unlocked the human genome, making it easier to identify and study the genes associated with Progeria and other genetic conditions is a recipient of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research.

Photo Courtesy genome.gov

     Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. is the director of the National Institute of Health.  Collins will be recognized along with the others chosen for the prize on April 23 at the Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y.

     The Human Genome Project identified the approximately 20-25,000 genes and identified the sequence of 3 billion chemical pairs that make up human DNA.  The information was immediately available online to researchers and will be used to ensure a quick as possible route for researchers in medicine.

     Collins declined his portion of the $500,000 prize that would have been awarded in order to comply with ethical rules. 

     Other recipients of the prize are Eric Lander, Ph.D. and David Botstein, Ph.D.

Dr. Oz Show Monday March 8, 2010
March 16, 2010

Photo Courtesy DoctorOz.com
Photo Courtesy of ToledoFreePress.com

 

     Kaylee Halko and her parents, Tim and Marla appeared on the Dr. Oz show Monday. Staffers had contacted them after viewing the TLC documentary “6 Going On 60” that Kaylee appeared in.

     Progeria Research Foundation Medical Director Leslie Gordon and University of Michigan’s Dr. Jeffrey Innis joined the Halkos on the show.  Dr. Innis originally diagnosed Kaylee in 2004 and practices at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

    Audrey Gordon told the Toledo Free Press that they were thrilled the medical show was interested in Progeria and raising awareness for the rare condition.

Progeria to be featured on The Dr. Oz Show
March 4, 2010

     Progeria will be the topic of The Dr. Oz Show on Monday, March 8.  The show airs at 5 pm est on the FOX channel in the Boston area.  Check your local listings for details. The Progeria Research Foundation’s Medical Director, Leslie Gordon will be appearing along with Kaylee Halko and her family.  Kaylee is a six year old girl with Progeria.

     Dr. Mehmet Oz previously appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and began The Dr. Oz Show in September, 2009.  Oz was Time Magazine’s 44th Most Influentional Scientist and Thinker in 2008.

Rare Disease Day 2010
March 3, 2010

Sunday February 28, 2010 was World Rare Disease Day.  The purpose of the day was to spread the word about the need to research rare diseases.  The National Organization for Rare Disorders headed the third annual event.  NORD’s mission is to identify, treat and cure rare diseases through various programs.

Information about rare diseases is limited; making diagnoses difficult and families often face a lack of research or resources.   Rare diseases often have no cures.  However, there are between 6 and 8 thousand known rare diseases with 75% of these affecting children (rarediseaseday.org).

Congress passed the Orphan Drug Act of 1983 to encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.  A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States.  Prior to the passage of this Act, private industries were hesitant to invest in treatments because the drugs were expected to be unprofitable.  To find out more about the benefits of this Act you can visit the review by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Finding a treatment or cure for rare diseases often leads to advances in more common diseases and disorders.  Dr. Leslie Gordon, Medical Director for the Progeria Research Foundation said, “Helping children with Progeria, with this rare and fatal disease, also helps us understand the biology of aging in all of us” (Findtheother150.org).

On Rare Disease Day 2010, Boston Children’s Hospital hung a sixty foot chain with the names of 350 rare diseases. Audrey Gordon, President and Executive Director of the Progeria Research Foundation explains why rare disease studies are so important:

Triple Drug Trial
February 26, 2010

The Progeria Research Foundation launched their triple drug trial in August, 2009. The goal is for three drugs to complement one another in stopping the production of the abnormal protein progerin which causes Progeria. The three drugs are Pravastatin, Zoledronic acid, and Lonafarnib. The trial will last two and a half years. In the clip below, Audrey Gordon, President and Executive Director of PRF, discusses how this second trial is different from the first:

PRF President and Executive Director Audrey Gordon
February 16, 2010

     Audrey Gordon is the President and Executive Director of the Progeria Research Foundation.   Audrey was named one of the 2004 North of Boston Business and Professional Women of the Year.  She is the front runner of countless efforts to fulfill PRF’s mission of finding a treatment and cure for Progeria. I asked Audrey where she got the inspiration to start the foundation:

Progeria Research Foundation Inspiration – Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

Meet Lindsay
February 8, 2010

     Lindsay Ratcliffe is a young girl living with Progeria.  This video truly allows you to see how fully Lindsay  is living her life and letting little stand in her way.  At five years old, Lindsay attends school and plays just like other children her age.  Her parents remain hopeful as the community rallies in support.

     Lindsay’s family was interviewed by FOX-2 and appears in this news video from May, 2009.  FOX 2’s Deena Centofanti has more:

Vodpod videos no longer available.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

more about “Lindsay Ratcliffe“, posted with vodpod

 

     Experts do not believe Progeria is hereditary.  In children with Progeria, the cell nucleus is a dramatically different shape (bottom right) than the cell nucleus in healthy individuals (top right) as demonstrated below:

Image from MedicalNewsToday.com

This image gives you a better sense of the science behind Progeria and what causes this genetic condition in 45 children across the globe.

Find the Other 150
February 1, 2010

            The Progeria Research Foundation began the ‘Find the Other 150’ Campaign three months ago.  The idea of the campaign is that there are statistically one hundred and fifty other children in the world with Progeria who are either undiagnosed or unknown by the organization.  In just these three months there have been three children identified; two are from Brazil and one is from Turkey.  PRF has set up a separate website to get the word out about this campaign.  Press releases about Progeria are being released in six languages across the world. 

          Once families are in contact with PRF, they can more fully understand Progeria and have access to the medical facilities they need as well as a network of families who know what one another is going through.  A clinical drug trial began in May, 2007 at Boston Children’s Hospital.  In just ten years, the Progeria Research Foundation has discovered the cause of Progeria and is working on treatment. This video introduces you to the children involved in the trial:

Dr. Leslie Gordon is the Medical Director of the Progeria Research Foundation.  She says the campaign is necessary to find children with Progeria:

As a parent of a child with Progeria, I don’t want other parents to feel helpless in diagnosing and treating their child. The “Find the Other 150” Campaign will allow PRF to provide these children with life-changing treatments and connect them with local medical professionals and other families of children with Progeria.

            The symptoms of Progeria include osteoporosis, growth failure, loss of body fat and hair, joint stiffness, cardiovascular disease and stroke (ProgeriaResearch.Org).  If you know a child with symptoms of Progeria, you can contact Audrey Gordon, President of the Progeria Research Foundation, at agordon@progeriaresearch.org.

Image from FindtheOther150.org