ADHD treatment possible with gene therapy: Study

The prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among American children can be gauged from a recent study titled “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Parent-Reported Diagnosis of ADHD,” which revealed that an estimated 5.8 million children aged 5-17 years have been diagnosed with this disorder.

The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in December 2015, also revealed that there has been an increase in the number of American adolescents being detected with this disorder, which makes it imperative for parents to get their wards evaluated by medical practitioners to prevent the onset of ADHD in their children.

A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University’s Langone Medical Center recently found the key to tackling this disorder that is gradually spreading its wings among the American children.

TRN dysfunction may be involved in some patients

The study, titled “Thalamic reticular impairment underlies attention deficit in Ptchd1Y/− mice,” published in the journal Nature in March 2016, found that the symptoms of ADHD may be attributed to the improper functioning of thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), which prevented the brain from blocking sensory input that causes distraction.

For the purpose of the research, the scientists used mice to find out that a gene mutation in them caused the TRN to function inappropriately, allowing transmission of a lot of information, thus inhibiting the day-to-day activities. However, by using drugs that enhance the working of TRN, scientists were able to rid the mice of signs of ADHD and other disorders hampering development.

In a press release, Guoping Feng, the James W. and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute, said, “Understanding these circuits may help explain the converging mechanisms across these disorders. For autism, schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental disorders, it seems like TRN dysfunction may be involved in some patients.”

It was observed that mutation in the gene called Ptchd1, which is responsible for the problems pertaining to attention deficit, autism and other related disorders, resulted in disruptions of the inhibitory functions of the TRN, leading to further problems like hyperactivity, aggression and disorders on the autism spectrum. Feng added, “We receive all kinds of information from different sensory regions, and it all goes into the thalamus. All this information has to be filtered. Not everything we sense goes through.”

It was revealed that any hindrance to the proper functioning of TRN causes the brain to feel overwhelmed, showing symptoms of aggression and attention deficit. But, the researchers are yet to discover as to how the deficit of PTCHD1 causes the TRN to turn inactive, while stimulation in the potassium ions in the body suppresses problems related to TRN.

Path to recovery

Till date, doctors have been treating children and adolescents suffering from ADHD by prescribing stimulant medications that have been known to trigger delusions, hallucinations and various symptoms of psychosis at times. The shift in focus to boost the TRN function as opposed to the current use of psychostimulants could fill the existing loopholes.

However, a detailed study into the functioning of TRN activity may initiate the discovery of effective remedies for brain disorders. The Mental Health America, in its latest data, revealed that approximately one in 20 children in the United States is diagnosed with ADHD in a year. As per the 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11 percent of school children in America have been detected with ADHD.

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