Garvan Breakthrough magazine - Feb 2018

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Ask Garvan Sandy from West Leederville in Perth, writes:

Tell us what you think Which scientific areas are you interested in?

My nephew has Prader-Willi syndrome. What’s happening in research to help this terrible condition?

What stories do you like reading in breakthrough ?

Other feedback?

This issue’s answer comes from Associate Professor Alexander Viardot, Group Leader – Prader-Willi Syndrome and Genetic Forms of Diabetes, Diabetes and Metabolism Division A: Thank you, Sandy, for your question about Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). Garvan is one of the few places in the world actively studying this condition. While PWS is relatively rare it is also the most common genetic


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Associate Professor Alexander Viardot




Do you have a science question? Just ask! Garvan’s experts are standing by to answer a selected medical research question in the next issue of breakthrough : Email your question to or post to Garvan Research Foundation Reply Paid 68593, Darlinghurst NSW 2010 cause of obesity and has significant developmental impacts. It is characterised by intellectual disability, insatiable hunger and other physical disorders, making it a very challenging condition to live with for both the person and the family. We have several new projects underway in PWS research, working towards understanding how critical muscle mass is for bone strength as well as the link between eating and inflammation in people with PWS. One of our past studies showed that the response of the autonomic nervous system to food intake is abnormal in PWS. As insatiable hunger and obesity have the biggest impact on quality of life for people with PWS, our current research focuses on how appetite-regulating hormones and the speed of gastric emptying affect appetite sensation. We are also testing a new drug, already used for diabetes, which has potential to be the first treatment in PWS to curb hunger and improve eating behaviour. Such a discovery would immediately benefit people with PWS. This research is a great example of the importance of studying rare diseases, as aside from helping people with these conditions, they also offer us unique insights into how the body works, which has the potential to improve everyone’s health.



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