How many times have you been looking for something at your house but you accidentally find something you previously were missing? Wouldn’t it be a shame if the prize you were seeking was within reach but you discounted that it could be that easy? What if understanding Niemann-Pick Type C disease opened up the door to help millions of Americans with other disorders involving cholesterol? Of course nothing in life is easy nor will it always be within reach. With being human comes the tendency to make oversights.
It has been almost 13 years in July 2010 that the NPC1 gene, on Chromosome 18 for Niemann-Pick Type C was shared with the world on its discovery. This was a huge step and monumental discovery with associating cholesterol with a certain gene/chromosome at that time. To arrive at this point, it took decades of work which shed an abundant light into how a cell metabolizes cholesterol. In short, Niemann-Pick Type C causes progressive deterioration of the nervous system by blocking the movement of cholesterol within cells.
“This discovery is an excellent example of how research on rare brain disorders often pays off in other ways,” says Zach W. Hall, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). “By identifying this gene, we not only take a crucial step forward in understanding this devastating disorder, but also gain insights into problems that affect every one of us.”
In 2001, cardiovascular disease was responsible for more than 39 percent of all deaths in the United States (American Heart Association: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2004). Atherosclerosis is a disease where plaque builds up in your arteries. We all know those aren’t important to our lively hood at all. OK, just joking but plaque is made up of fat, calcium, cholesterol, and other substances found in our blood that over time builds up but hardens in the passage ways of our arteries. Imagine if you’re driving through a two way tunnel but one side is now closed off? It would be kind of hard to get through to the other side in a timely and relaxing manor with additional objects in your way? Just like that situation, this affects how we get our blood to important areas in our bodies. With millions of people dying each year, this is a huge number of people. What if Niemann-Pick Type C could provide some insight?
Other diseases such as Adult onset Alzheimer’s, Stroke, Cystic Fibrosis, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and even HIV-Aids will benefit from the research into Niemann-Pick Type C. Did you know that children can experience dementia to? Crazy to imagine because most of us think that only our elderly family members get that! With the combination of deaths due to these diseases, could you imagine if we had a more collaborative research environment? Unfortunately big companies aren’t going to sacrifice revenue opportunities to help a blip on the radar screen but they will invest if they see it helping thousands of people; this means a return on their investment. This reality is sad but true.
Rare diseases OUR important to you, me, and everyone we know. Each of us has a Chromosome 18 that is vital to us being a living human being. I encourage you to help out in some way. That could be donating to several charities that fund research for NPC like the National Niemann Pick Disease Foundation, Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, Hide and Seek Foundation or the Niemann-Pick Children's Fund. That could be becoming and advocate in lobbying our government for better health care. It could be you just passing the word and spreading awareness.
We all are in this together and have been affected in some way by one of the diseases mentioned in this post. One person can make a difference in the world and that person could be you.
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