Gene therapy can be used to treat ADHD

All of us know that ADHD is a mental health condition that affects the behavior of children. But then how is it related to genetics? How is it possible to treat it by gene therapy? Is it counseling the genes? Well, to get all your questions answered, you need to read this interesting article!


What is ADHD?

Let us first understand what ADHD is. American Psychological Association has explained that ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition of behavior that makes it challenging for children to focus on everyday activities and routines. They are also unable to make plans which work in reality. They also have difficulty in obeying a timetable. They are also not able to think before they do any action. It has an impact on more than 9 % of the American children as per the researchers. Hence, it becomes necessary to find a cure for it.


They say that prevention is better than cure. And the best cure is the one that assists in the prevention of the disorder itself. Let us know more about such a cure!


What is gene therapy?

Gene therapy is used either for the treatment or the prevention of the disease. It involves the removal of bad genes and replacing them with good genes. It also involves the changes in their functioning such that it prevents the disorders and other potential causes of them. The two forms of gene therapy include somatic gene therapy and germline gene therapy.


The several advantages of gene therapy are that its effects last longer than medications or treatment. It not only benefits the individual itself but the entire generation too! The prevention of disorder will lead to increased quality of life rather than going through stress and anxiety during treatment or facing harmful side effects of the medications.

The link between ADHD and genetics

ADHD has been described as a behavioral disorder; however, no one can think of gene therapy as helpful. As told by Evgeniy Svirin, a junior research fellow believes that the changes in the structure of gene protein can be the cause of the ADHD. It is the first evidence of a link between ADHD and genetics. Further, he also addresses the lack of attention on the genetic side of this disorder.

The second evidence of the link between ADHD and genetics is the thalamic reticular nucleus. It is a part of our brain, which leads the brain to stop the distractions that might bother you in daily functioning. When we look at the description of ADHD, we might be able to connect the lack of focus in individuals having ADHD with the thalamic reticular nucleus. There is likely some problem with the thalamic reticular nucleus in individuals with ADHD. It is what was proved by NYU Langone Medical Center. Anders Borglum has said that genes can affect our interaction of brain cells, learning, and speech development. As we go back to the understanding of ADHD, we will understand that learning and speech development is hampered due to ADHD. Hence, we see a very strong link between ADHD and genetics.


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What are the disadvantages of existing therapies and medication of ADHD?

As mentioned by the journal of Molecular Psychiatry, the genes that are targeted by the medications are not in essential relation with ADHD. They can treat only some patients. Research is required as to what will be the result if this mismatch of genes will be helpful or not. However, Dalfampridine might be used as a medicine to improve the cognitive skills of the individuals.


Studies show a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases in children. Pieces of evidence indicate higher heart rates in children with ADHD than those without ADHD or those who have ADHD but are not taking anti-stimulants. Their growth, height, and weight are also affected due to the medications. Further, they are at a higher risk of substance abuse disorders, as the research shows that they overdosed their stimulants.

A non-stimulant named ATX has a greater rate of ‘psychiatric adverse events,’ such as suicidal ideation. It also has mild to moderate levels of side effects. A2A treatment was also linked with fatigue, decreased blood pressure and heart rate, sedation, and sleepiness.


What are the advantages of gene therapy for the treatment of ADHD?

As mentioned in the article of Lindsay Kalter Wells, alteration in the genetic functioning of the thalamic nucleus or TRN could help develop new treatments that are more efficient than original ADHD medications, which have harmful side effects and do not benefit all the patients.


Decreased connectivity and volume in the cerebellum have been accounted for in individuals with ADHD. It can also be treated using gene therapy by affecting those genes which have a favorable impact on the cerebellum.


Future of gene therapy

Several loopholes of the gene therapy need to be overcome, such as intensity and unexpected consequences upon the children. Further repeated screen tests throughout the lives of those undergoing gene therapy might not be very pocket-friendly and feasible.

As mentioned in the article reviewed by Larissa Hirsch, researchers have been expecting that gene therapy will aid in the prevention and cure of childhood disorders. Anders Borglum, a researcher in the biomedicine department, talks about the genetic risk variants, which increase the chances of developing ADHD. He explains very well as to how the high number of genetic risk variants means he increased the possibility of developing ADHD. This way, the prevention of ADHD will be very much a real concept!


Hence, gene therapy can very much become an unexpected treatment for ADHD. The best part of gene therapy is preventing it rather than having a child, and their family suffers due to it. And gene therapy would also be aiming at individuals who do not respond to medications or other psychological or psychosocial treatments.

Image credits: Getty Images

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