Going genes shopping...

I read a new study outlining a potential gene therapy treatment for obesity. The point is not the potential for gene therapy (it's still too early to tell, in my opinion), or whether obesity even needs gene therapy treatment. Rather, I got thinking about how similar treatments might be used to treat eating disorders.

There is, of course, the small problem that researchers don't exactly know enough about the bio- and neurochemistry of what causes eating disorders for this to be practical. Again, we'll kind of pretend that's not an issue.

A more pressing problem would be research funds. Eating disorders get the short shrift when it comes to research funds. EDs affect more Americans than Alzheimer's disease but get less research dollars. And considering that gene therapy is controversial enough, I don't think the NIH is going to be eager to fund such a venture.

However, the question remains: would using gene therapy for EDs work? Or, if gene therapy isn't your thing, would a similar pharmaceutical treatment work?

I think first we would have to understand the interplay between such molecules as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, leptin, ghrelin, and a whole host of others. We just don't know. Nor do we know exactly what would happen if these systems were altered. The same, of course, goes for obesity, although this lack of knowledge doesn't seem to be stopping anyone from trying.

Considering how little we know about both the genetics and biochemistry of EDs, I don't think it's going to be a reasonable proposition anytime soon. But I think we should keep our minds open. There is such room for improvement on current ED treatments AND knowledge of the disorder that I would hate to overlook something simple and potentially life-saving.

Whether it will be gene therapy? I doubt it. But who knows where the breakthroughs will come from...

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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