Researchers confirm genetic mutation link to ALS symptoms

(Bethesda, MD – Insurance News 360) – A team of researchers has confirmed there is a new genetic mutation that is linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The international team shows that changes in the neuronal transport gene KIF5A are associated with ALS.

The gene in question is Kinesin family member 5A (KIF5A). It has been linked to two rare neurodegenerative disorders, and has been definitively connected to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by several of the world’s top ALS research labs. Mutations in this gene cause problems in transport of proteins along the axions that connect nerve cells of the brain and spine. This eventually leads to the neuromuscular symptoms of ALS.

Published in the March 21 issue of “Neuron,” the study was led by Bryan Traynor, M.D., Ph.D., of the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health and John Landers, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, with key funding support from the NIA, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at NIH, and several public and private sector organizations.

There was a comprehensive collaborative effort to examine the data that pointed toward KIF5A as a suspect for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The team of researchers from NIH conducted a large-scale genome-wide association study, and a team at the University of Massachusetts looked for rare variants in the next generation sequence data.   There were more than 125,000 samples in the study.

“Axons extend from the brain to the bottom of the spine, forming some of the longest single cellular pathways in the body,” said Traynor. “KIF5A helps to move key proteins and organelles – specialized parts of cells — up and down that axonal transport system, controlling the engines for the nervous system’s long-range cargo trucks. This mutation disrupts that system, causing the symptoms we see with ALS.”

The project’s next steps include further study of the frequency and location of mutations ithin the gene, to determine what cargos are disrupted. ccording to Traynor, next steps for the project include further study of the frequency and location of mutations within KIF5A and determining what cargos are being disrupted. He and his team hope this will help reveal what aspect of axonal transport is essential to maintain the cell.

Source: National Institutes of Health.

Wolf Administration Announces Recovery of More Than $98 Million for Pennsylvania Insurance Consumers in 2017

(Pittsburg, PA – Insurance News 360) – In 2017, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department returned $98,073,388 in stolen funds, unpaid insurance claims and refunds for premium overcharges to 33,138 customers throughout the state.

“Ensuring consumers are afforded all of the rights and protections guaranteed to them by Pennsylvania law is what we work for,” said Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. “Protecting consumers and holding businesses to the highest standards continues to be a top priority of Governor Wolf and the department.”

Since 2012, the state’s insurance department has also returned $680,518,671 to consumers after a multi-state settlement with various life insurance companies.  As a leader in this ongoing examination of life insurance companies, Pennsylvania has helped not only recover financial benefits for consumers, but also entered settlement agreements with many life insurers requiring them to reform their business practices. Some companies were making selective use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF), and instead of paying policy benefits upon a policyholder’s death, the companies were only terminating payment of annuity benefits. These companies have now committed to properly using the DMF to identify potentially unpaid insurance benefits and locate beneficiaries.

The Insurance Department also has made available, in conjunction with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the Life Policy Finder, which can help beneficiaries find life insurance policies that may have been lost over the years.

If you have a question about your insurance or need to file a complaint, you may contact the Insurance Department’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 1-877-881-6388 or online.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department.