The Handoff: Your Week in Neurology News – 4/13/17

The Handoff is a weekly roundup of neurology news covering various developments in subspecialties, the pharmaceutical industry, and the overall state of health care as it affects neurologists.

— Two preclinical studies suggest that silencing the SCA2 gene may help prevent or reduce neurological symptoms associated with spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 

— A study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery found that thalamic deep brain stimulation may help reduce the tics associated with Tourette’s syndrome. 

— The US FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization to Nanobiosym’s Gene-Radar Zika virus test. 

— Precision medicine may be key to better understanding differences in treatment response in patients with childhood absence epilepsy.

— Novartis has suffered a major blow that will make their MS product Gilenya vulnerable to generic competition starting in 2019 despite trying to uphold a 2026 patent. The decision by the US Federal Circuit will also likely affect other MS brands including Biogen’s Tecfidera. 

— More bad news for Novartis: Analysts predict that the launch of Roche’s Ocrevus will further erode market share for competitors including Gilenya, Tecfidera, and Tysabri to the tune of a 30-40% decrease in sales. 

— Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have found a way to force astrocytes to transform into dopamine neurons, functioning just like normal midbrain dopamine neurons. The finding, published in Nature Biotechnology, may be the first step in a novel therapeutic approach for Parkinson’s. 

— A study in zebrafish found that fluorescent granular perithelial cells that help protect the brain from toxins do not arise from immune cells, but instead directly from endothelial cells. The finding may help researchers better understand age-related decline in brain functioning. 

— North Dakota, where Alzheimer’s is the second leading cause of death, is becoming a model of dementia care, as programs aimed at personally educating caregivers help connect those in need with services, support groups, and in-home visits. 

— Watch the video below from Cleveland Clinic for a great review of ocrelizumab’s efficacy in MS.