Scientists discover obesity gene


HEALTH BRIEFING:A SINGLE gene’s effect on the brain can result in non-stop eating, research published online in Nature Medicine has shown. Scientists believe the “gluttony gene” may be responsible for cases of obesity caused by out-of-control appetite.

The Bdnf gene variant was studied in mice. It was found to prevent brain neurons from transmitting signals that tell the body it has eaten enough. The research opens up the possibility of tackling obesity by using drugs that stimulate Bdnf activity in the brain.

New drug may help deal with seizures in babies

A NEW drug to treat seizures in tiny babies which has been developed by researchers at University College Cork and University College London offers fresh hope to parents. Neonatal seizures occur in two-three out of 1,000 births and are associated with both acute mortality and long-term neurodisability.

Researchers at the two universities, industrial partners and scientists involved in the EU programme, Nemo, have been trying to develop an effective anti-epileptic drug suitable for the treatment of newborns with birth asphyxia and seizures. They are focusing on this high-risk group because of the poor neurodevelopmental outcome for babies with seizures which are resistant to current anti-epileptic drugs. Nemo is undertaking a European-wide dose finding trial and a randomised controlled trial is planned.

The new formulation of the diuretic, butetanide, is in a clinical phase II trial and the first market authorisation of the product is expected in 2014.

Prof Geraldine Boylan of UCC’s School of Medicine said seizures in the very young differ from those in adults in terms of causation, clinical features and, most importantly, long-term consequences. “Up to now, we have faced an ethical predicament with regard to drug therapy in children and in particular in babies: on the one hand, they need protection from the potential risks of unnecessary research, but on the other hand, they may be harmed when given inadequately studied medicines. In addition, more effective modern medicines are currently withheld because they have not been studied in this patient group.”

HSE ‘not doing enough’ to reduce overtime bill

THE HSE is not doing enough to tackle its overtime bill despite a reduction last year, according to the chairman of the HSE West Forum. Cllr Padraig Conneely was commenting yesterday on the HSE reducing its national overtime bill by 4 per cent last year. According to information provided in response to a Freedom of Information request, the HSE confirmed that last year it paid €169.6 million in overtime compared with €177 million in 2010 – a drop of €7.4 million.

A breakdown shows that 58.5 per cent (€99.2 million) of the overtime payments were made to the “medical-dental” sector. The HSE states that its reporting system does not break down how much was paid to junior doctors, but confirmed that the majority of the overtime payments to “medical-dental” is made to Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors. The overtime payments to “medical-dental” fell by 1.8 per cent from €101.1 million in 2010 to €99.2 million last year. The provisional figures show that overtime payments to nurses fell by 10 per cent last year from €35.3 million to €31.8 million. Cllr Conneely said: “The HSE has put forward the reduction of overtime as one of its pillars to reduce costs, but the figures from last year show that it is not moving quick enough to deal with the high payouts. Overall, the reduction is minimal. It is very, very little and I’m not too sure if the will is there by the HSE to affect the efficiencies required.”

A HSE spokeswoman said: “The HSE will continue to implement radical cost reductions including the significant reduction of the volumes of both overtime and agency across all staff functions to ensure the HSE meets its budget targets.”