Rare Toolkits from Global Genes


RARE Toolkits provide individuals with usable information on a variety of topics related to living with and/or advocating for rare disease patients. RARE Toolkits are being created in collaboration with key rare disease stakeholders that have developed a vast array of subject matter expertise and believe in the importance of sharing these best practices. RARE Toolkits are interactive and will continue to evolve as advocates share additional best practices around specific topics.

More on Rare Toolkits HERE

Family prepare heartbreaking bucket list for boy aged 9 with rare and incurable illness

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The family of a schoolboy with an incurable brain condition are determined to make his dreams come true as they face an uncertain future together.

Callum McGilligan’s heartbroken mum is drawing up a ‘bucket list’ to create memories with her nine-year-old son after he was sent home from hospital.

The North Tyneside family hope to start by taking their son to the Harry Potter studios in London, reports the Newcastle Gazette.

Callum’s family also today expressed frustration at the lack of research going into Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood, the one-in-a-million condition which has shattered her son’s life.

Helen McGilligan said: “Because it’s so rare, there’s no research. They just know it’s incurable.

Callum-McGilligan 1

“We feel like we are walking on egg-shells all the time, not knowing when Callum is going to take a turn for the worse.

“Now we just want to create as many good memories for him as we possibly can. He is a little boy at the end of the day and we want him to enjoy his life as much as possible.”

The family are now aiming to raise awareness of the condition, cash for the hospital where he is being treated, and money to help make Callum’s various wishes come true.

Helen, 50, of Longbenton, North Tyneside, said: “He is Harry Potter mad and would love to visit the studios in London so we are trying to sort that out.

“We would also like to take him to see Shrek the Musical. All of these things are about giving him the best we can.”

Callum had been a keen and talented ice hockey player until he started suffering ‘funny spells’.

Tests followed, but doctors told the family, including dad Alex, 51, they were baffled by Callum’s condition.

Eventually Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood was diagnosed and medics discovered the right side of the youngster’s brain had been damaged leaving him with the educational capabilities of a four-year-old.

AHC is a rare neurological disorder that can leave sufferers paralysed. Chest infections and flu can be fatal to those with the condition.

Callum has spent the past four weeks in hospital after suffering a chest infection which left him fighting for his life.

The family, including elder siblings Matthew, 30, Alexander, 18, and sisters Claire, 27, and Faye, 22, are now keeping a check on him back home as he tries to recover.

Helen added: “Because we never know what the next day is going to be like, we just live day-to-day.

“We keep asking “why him?” but you can’t live your life that way.

“We now just hang onto the little things and as long as we can see him smiling, that’s enough for us.

“He really is the most lovely little boy and he warms to everybody – I think it’s his red hair that people love.”

Faye, Callum’s sister, is holding a fundraising event at the NE6 suite in Walker, Newcastle, between 12pm and 3pm on March 8.

Faye said: “Funds raised on the day will be split between AHCUK, Great North Children’s Hospital and also CCDI Which is Callum’s wish fund.”

Anyone wanting to find out more can email ccdiwishfund@gmail.com


Today rare families all around the world celebrate RARE DISEASE DAY

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Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February each year.

The main objective of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.

The campaign targets primarily the general public and also seeks to raise awareness amongst policy makers, public authorities, industry representatives, researchers, health professionals and anyone who has a genuine interest in rare diseases.

Since Rare Disease Day was first launched by EURORDIS and its Council of National Alliances in 2008, thousands of events have taken place throughout the world reaching hundreds of thousands of people and resulting in a great deal of media coverage.

The political momentum resulting from Rare Disease Day also serves advocacy purposes. It has notably contributed to the advancement of national plans and policies for rare diseases in a number of countries.

Even though the campaign started as a European event, it has progressively become a world phenomenon, with the USA joining in 2009, and participation in a record-breaking 84 countries around the world in 2014. We hope many more will join in 2015. Some countries have decided to raise rare disease awareness further, for example, Spain declared 2013 as the National Year for Rare Diseases.

Our objective is for the World Health Organization to recognise the last day of February as the official Rare Disease Day and to raise increasing awareness for Rare Diseases worldwide.


AHC day web

Today we celebrate the International AHC day, today we raise awareness on Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood in order to speed up research process and ultimately to find a treatment for AHC.

3 years ago scientists discovered the mutated gene ATP1A3 that is the cause AHC for the majority of AHC champions.

AHC has been called by neurologist “The most complex disorder known to man”

If scientists discover what triggers the AHC episodes then we are also discovering basic functions of other much more common disorders that will eventually help millions of people all over the world.

To help us find a treatment for AHC will help not just help our AHC champions but also millions of people with other disorders, perhaps someone in YOUR family……


AHC is short for Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood. Plegia refers to forms of paralysis of the body and or limbs, Hemi adds the scale of half the entire body to it and Alternating indicates that the forms of paralysis may change from one side of the body to the other. Childhood means that the disease is most often diagnosed during childhood.
AHC is a very rare neurological disorder with only about 800 diagnosed patients worldwide.

Alternating hemiplegia of Childhood is a condition that causes transient weakness of either, or both, sides of the body. The attacks may alternate or sometimes overlap, that is the second side is affected before the first recovers. Attacks start in the first eighteen months of life but the earliest episodes are often unusual irregular eye movements. The attacks last from less than an hour, which is unusual, to several days. When the attacks are prolonged the manifestations are not apparent during sleep or for the first fifteen to twenty minutes on waking when they then return. This is a very characteristic finding and when there are bilateral attacks, this may allow feeding and drinking to occur in that short clear period after waking. The episodes of hemiplegia are not epileptic in nature but epileptic seizures also occur in about half of those affected and require separate anti-epileptic drug treatment.
All children and young adults are different and have different triggers. Some common ones are as follows:-
Water – bathing and swimming.
Changes in temperature.
Bright lights and loud noises.
Childhood illnesses and infections.
Tiredness and lack of sleep.

What causes AHC?
A de novo mutation in ATP1A3 causes the episodes for 80% of the AHC individuals but other mutated genes cause the episodes for the remaining 20%.
Diagnoses can be confirmed by exome sequencing in majority of cases.

What’s the treatment?
The treatment most commonly used is Flunarizine (a calcium channel blocker). Other drugs have not been found to be consistently helpful. Management is complex because of the multiple impairments and episodic deterioration. Bilateral attacks (those that occur on both sides of the body) may pose hazards for nutrition, hydration and breathing.
As each child is so different with this condition a treatment or medication that works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Knock-in mouse model of alternating hemiplegia of childhood

Knock-in mouse model of alternating hemiplegia of childhood: Behavioral and electrophysiologic characterization

Mouse model
Mouse model

Mutations in the ATP1α3 subunit of the neuronal Na+/K+-ATPase are thought to be responsible for seizures, hemiplegias, and other symptoms of alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC). However, the mechanisms through which ATP1A3 mutations mediate their pathophysiologic consequences are not yet understood. The following hypotheses were investigated: (1) Our novel knock-in mouse carrying the most common heterozygous mutation causing AHC (D801N) will exhibit the manifestations of the human condition and display predisposition to seizures; and (2) the underlying pathophysiology in this mouse model involves increased excitability in response to electrical stimulation of Schaffer collaterals and abnormal predisposition to spreading depression (SD).

We generated the D801N mutant mouse (Mashlool, Mashl+/−) and compared mutant and wild-type (WT) littermates. Behavioral tests, amygdala kindling, flurothyl-induced seizure threshold, spontaneous recurrent seizures (SRS), and other paroxysmal activities were compared between groups. In vitro electrophysiologic slice experiments on hippocampus were performed to assess predisposition to hyperexcitability and SD.

Mutant mice manifested a distinctive phenotype similar to that of humans with AHC. They had abnormal impulsivity, memory, gait, motor coordination, tremor, motor control, endogenous nociceptive response, paroxysmal hemiplegias, diplegias, dystonias, and SRS, as well as predisposition to kindling, to flurothyl-induced seizures, and to sudden unexpected death. Hippocampal slices of mutants, in contrast to WT animals, showed hyperexcitable responses to 1 Hz pulse-trains of electrical stimuli delivered to the Schaffer collaterals and had significantly longer duration of K+-induced SD responses.

Our model reproduces the major characteristics of human AHC, and indicates that ATP1α3 dysfunction results in abnormal short-term plasticity with increased excitability (potential mechanism for seizures) and a predisposition to more severe SD responses (potential mechanism for hemiplegias). This model of the human condition should help in understanding the molecular pathways underlying these phenotypes and may lead to identification of novel therapeutic strategies of ATP1α3 related disorders and seizures.

For the whole article click HERE

Living With A Mentally Disabled Sibling

It’s a world just a handful of us exist in, and few outsiders understand. A world so miniscule even grandparents or uncles do not fully grasp what goes on under our roof. A world so complicated that I will never entirely understand what my parents go through or what they feel, and they will never entirely understand what I go through or what I feel. I’m just here to share my perspective of the world I live in.

Despite the 6-year age gap between my older sister and I, I have embodied the “big sister” persona in our family. I don’t recall exactly when I really made the transformation from “little sis” to “big sis” but it was probably sometime in my elementary school days, when my academics, my emotions, and even my ability to do the tasks that have become second nature to us all (such tying shoes) greatly surpassed those of my sister. As each year passed by, and more and more milestones were piling up for my sister to complete, I began to recognize that this life, this family, this situation meant our lives would be shifted, and focused in on my sister.


Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood, or AHC for short is a rare neurological disorder that causes my sister to have episodes (which we call “spells”) of paralysis. There is no warning, no flashing red light of danger, and no siren to give us clue as to when this unwelcomed disorder creeps up and traps her inside her own body. There is no timer, no countdown, and no hourglass to inform us when it will end, when we can hit the “play” button on our lives again. There are triggers, and sparks that expedite her spells. The beach is a trigger. Water is a trigger. Excitement is a trigger. Loud noise is a trigger.

Until I left for college, our family operated as one whole unit, with my sister’s disability as the controller. It controls my mom, who sacrificed her passion and her work to care for my sister 24/7. It controls my dad, who works hours longer than anyone ever should to provide for us all. And it controls me, in ways I didn’t even realize until recently, but mainly it controls me emotionally. When you’re 6 years younger than your sibling, and suddenly the older sibling role is thrown at you, you have no choice but to face it. No choice but to mature at a faster pace than your peers around you are. I was exposed to different hospitals, doctors, neurologists, specialists, prescriptions, and ambulances from the time I was 4. I could describe my sister’s medical condition in detail by the age of 10, and better than the majority of neurologists could, considering almost all of the neurologists my sister has been to, have never even heard of AHC. We jumped from hospitals to doctor’s offices to specialists with a typed letter in hand- informing them of what they were supposed to help fix.

Not only mentally did I grow up faster in this situation, but emotionally as well. Emotions I didn’t know how to process when I was so young, emotions that I thought weren’t okay for me to feel. How could I think such negative things of my own sister, when my life is breeze compared to hers? If my sister would sing in public (her biggest passion) I would feel a twinge of embarrassment begin in the pit of my stomach, and snap at her to shut up. Thoughts of “Did I really just say that?” “She can’t help herself Ashley.” “How could you do that to her?” rushed into my head, and my face grew hot and deep red. Then I’d apologize immediately and tell her to belt her heart out. If she would go into a spell in public, neck locked up, head shaking, moaning in pain, I’d be torn. My emotions tended to always split halfway here. There were times when I would act as if I didn’t know my family, and not help my sister in her time of need. It was too embarrassing, too stressful, too much attention and I just wanted us to blend in. Then, I’d do a complete 180, and I’d be overly helpful, and maybe too aggressive towards strangers. I’d glare at them. I’d make snide remarks under my breath about how adults should teach their kids not to stare. I’ve even asked people if they wouldn’t mind me staring at them with a disgusted smirk and gaping mouth. You can imagine their reactions to my comments were less than enthusiastic, yet they seemed perfectly fine doing all of that to my sister.

Britt and Ashley

Over the past 5 years, I’ve been working on not letting this control my emotions so intensely. There are times when yes, I’m still embarrassed by my sister. There are times when I get angry and frustrated with her. But don’t we all go through ups and downs with our siblings, regardless of their physical and mental state? Don’t all sisters fight? Don’t all sisters want the attention to be on them and NOT their sister? (We are girls, after all). It’s been a lengthy and tough road to get where I am today. Where I realize it’s more than okay for me to feel everything I’m feeling. But as the “other sibling” in these special types of families, people who don’t understand, people who are outsiders will tell you that your feelings don’t matter, only your siblings do. And that it’s wrong for you to think or feel anything but positive things about your sibling and your situation. They will tell you that the focus isn’t on you. They will tell you that your sibling is more important. Trust me when I say we (the ones with disabled siblings) fully understand that there are certain medical, whether it be mental or physical, needs that our siblings have, and we do not. But needs don’t value our importance as humans, as daughters, as siblings.

And to my loving sister, thank you for constantly being the biggest supporter in my life. You have never once stopped encouraging me to follow my dreams of pursuing theatre and writing. You’ve been cheering me on since day one, and I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side in this crazy journey we call life. Keep singing, Britt. Sing so the whole world can hear your voice.

Ashley DeLuke

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Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood (AHC) is a very rare neurological disease (one affected individual in a million), caused by specific groups of mutations in the ATP1A3 gene.

Rapid Onset Dystonia Parkinsonism (RDP) and, recently, a new syndrome (CAPOS) have been recognized involving other mutations of the same gene.
All these conditions are very rare and partly overlapping in their neurological manifestations. Common pathogenetic mechanisms could be involved.
The International Consortium IAHCRC, for the research on AHC and other ATP1A3 related rare diseases, was formed in 2012 to carry out a collaborative research that led to the identification of the ATP1A3 gene as the main cause of AHC (Heinzen et al., Nature Genetics, July 2012).

The Consortium involves clinicians, geneticists and researchers working at University centers in Europe, USA and Australia; it operates in close collaboration with health professionals and patient organizations, most of whom were already involved in the EU-funded projects “ENRAH for SMEs” (FP6, 2005-2007) and nEUroped (PH, 2008-2011). Its European branch was represented at the recent meetings organized by the European Commission for the creation of European Reference Networks.

Prof. Alexis Arzimanoglou describes the origins of the IAHCRC Consortium at the Second Symposium on ATP1A3 in Disease (Rome, 23 – 24 September 2013)
Prof. Alexis Arzimanoglou describes the origins of the IAHCRC Consortium
at the Second Symposium on ATP1A3 in Disease (Rome, 23 – 24 September 2013)

In 2013 the Consortium launched a new collaborative study GPC-AHC, directed by Prof. Alexis Arzimanoglou and Doctor Eleni Panagiotakaki (FR), aimed to identify possible correlations between the clinical phenotype associated with AHC and mutations in the ATP1A3 gene, with the goal to investigate whether different mutations can, in part, be responsible for the clinical heterogeneity observed in the disease. The data were collected from the largest international cohort of AHC patients to date (155 patients), and the results of their analysis are now submitted for publication.

Another study ECG-AHC, coordinated by Prof. Sanjay Sisodiya (UK), on some dysautonomic features of AHC, including 55 patients, is also submitted for publication.

Further collaborative studies, clinical, genetic and molecular, are currently in progress by the centers of the Consortium.

The objectives of the IAHCRC Consortium are the active contribution to the collaborative study of the pathogenetic mechanisms of the ATP1A3 diseases and the development of effective treatments. In close collaboration with patient associations, but also European and international networks, the IAHCRC will contribute to the promotion of a better care for all the affected patients, by developing specific standards for the diagnosis and the management of the diseases and by disseminating the information.

Last October 22nd, 15 founding member centers officially constituted the Consortium, through the approval of the IAHCRC Charter; the Charter contains a set of rules for the functioning of the Consortium and for the sharing of the information and patient data for its collaborative studies.

Last October 22nd, 15 founding member centers officially constituted the Consortium, through the approval of the IAHCRC Charter; the Charter contains a set of rules for the functioning of the Consortium and for the sharing of the information and patient data for its collaborative studies.

AHC Association of Iceland donates 1 million to AHC DOCUMENTARY

Today the AHC Association of Iceland supported the AHC Documentary by donating 1.000.000 isk. (8600 usd).

Ragnheidur and Ágústa Fanney
Ragnheidur and Ágústa Fanney

The AHCAI board realizes that the project is of great importance for the whole AHC community, patients, parents, supporters, doctors and researchers. The amount and quality of information gathered so far for the AHC Documentary is so vast that is will be THE source for everyone that will ever be looking for information on this disorder in the future.

Therefore the AHC Doc crew has decided to create a special project called “The AHC video library” that will be released in the summer of 2015.

plaggat 1.3 Delta

Ragnheidur Erla Hjaltadottir vice president of AHCIA presented Ágústa Fanney Snorradóttir (moviemaker) with the large check today.

Ágústa Fanney said: “I´d like to thank the AHC Association of Iceland for the support. The making of the Documentary has already made a positive impact on the AHC community and now we are one step closer to finishing the project.”
The AHC Association of Iceland thanks Ágústa Fanney and the whole crew for embarking on this project that perhaps in the beginning seemed quite small but is growing every step of the way.

We just hope that the end result will be of great value for the AHC community and for all diseases rare and common.


AFHA family meeting in Paris 25-26 October 2014

19 French families have registered for the meeting, including 12 AHC patients.

Total of 59 people attending the meeting.
Talks and sessions will be in French language only .
AFHA will welcome 6 scientists (1 geneticist and 5 neurologists) involved in various projects on AHC in France and 1 new family who joined AFHA last month.

Here is the program for the meeting: