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Weekly News Summary – 14th December 2017

Organ donation opt out system

Welcome back to this week’s edition of the news summary blog. This blog brings you the highlights in medical news from 7th to 13th December. This week, ministers are proposing a change to the organ donation process and pushing for an opt-out scheme. British doctors say they have achieved “mind-blowing” results in an attempt to rid people of haemophilia A, and a new experimental drug has shown promise in treating Huntington’s disease.

The current regulations in England mean that those who are willing to donate their organs when they die need to sign up to a donor register. However, a consultation on adopting an opt out scheme of organ donation starts next week. Wales already has the presumed consent system and Scotland are in the process of introducing a similar scheme. Presently, 6,500 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant and every year 450 patients on the waiting list die before a suitable donor is found. It is uncertain whether adopting the new scheme will reduce the number of patients waiting for organs but in Wales only 6% of the population have signed the opt-out register.

British doctors say they have achieved “mind-blowing” results in an attempt to rid people of haemophilia A. Thirteen patients given the gene therapy at Barts Health NHS Trust are now off treatment with 11 producing near-normal levels of the protein, and larger trials are now imminent to see if the therapy can transform the lives of patients suffering from haemophilia.

An experimental drug that is injected into spinal fluid can correct Huntington’s disease for the first time. The researchers at the University College London (UCL) have shown that the drug lowers levels of toxic proteins in the brain that cause the disease. Huntington’s is an inherited degenerative neurological disease. The disease is caused by an error in a section of DNA known as the huntingtin gene and the treatment works by silencing this gene. Although the drug is in its early stages of testing, it has been shown to be well-tolerated by patients, safe and reduces the level of huntingtin in the brain.   

Words: Joelle Booth

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