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Glenn Nichols, surrounded by his hospice team. The author is in yellow.

Genetic Linkage

When Celebrities Suddenly Care About Rare Diseases

June 17, 2015

Tags: Batten disease, Charlotte and Gwenyth Gray, Taylor's Tale, Laura King Edwards

Sharon King, Laura King Edwards, and Taylor King -- and Hannah Montana
I have followed, in awe, the tireless efforts of families that have rare genetic diseases to raise awareness and funds.

Bake sales and bike races, balls and raffles, exhausting and all-consuming. But these efforts pale when a performer or other famous rich person suddenly and explosively steps up to support such a disease, solely because someone they know has just been diagnosed. As if dozens of families haven’t already been trying to fund clinical trials for years. Last summer’s "ice bucket challenge" was the epitome of the power of viral social media, with the message about ALS lost in the excitement.

When celebrities suddenly care about rare diseases, I wonder what my friends in the rare disease community think. They’re happy, of course, at the attention, yet perhaps a bit unglued by the power of the famous – but maybe afraid to say so.

That happened recently for Batten disease, a devastating group of brain disorders that strike in childhood. One family isn’t afraid to speak out.

Two years ago my blog DNA Science gave a voice to Laura King Edwards, who has been running races in all 50 states in honor of her 16-year-old sister Taylor, who has Batten disease. Laura updated a year ago.

This year, she and her mother Sharon King share their thoughts about last week’s avalanche of concern for the disease that is taking Taylor away. (more…)

instruction
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