Huntington’s disease research news. In plain language. Written by scientists. For the global HD community.
Though many scientists have focused on damage to a part of the brain called the striatum as a source of HD symptoms, this is a narrow picture of what changes in the brain during HD. A new book provides a summary of many research techniques over a hundred years that have led to a more complete image of HD as a disease affecting the entire brain.
Because brain cell death drives symptoms in Huntington’s disease, these cells steal the spotlight in disease-related research. But new research on the brain's blood supply has uncovered changes in HD that could be making it harder for the brain cells to cope with the disease.
The brain is a very hungry organ, but does it consume energy differently in Huntington's disease? A team led by David Eidelberg of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research has been studying the patterns of energy consumption in the brains of people carrying the HD mutation. Changes in how much sugar the brain uses are seen even before the brain starts to change physically, suggesting this might be a useful thing to track in HD clinical trials.
Using a new brain scanning technique for the first time in HD, researchers have found that people with Huntington's disease may have increased sodium levels in their brains. But what does increased sodium actually mean? Why do we have sodium in our brains at all - isn't it just salt? And why might a 'salty brain' be bad?
It has long been known that HD causes brain shrinkage that can be detected using MRI scanning. But new findings from the PREDICT-HD study suggest that the brains of men with the HD might never reach the same size as the brains of people without the mutation during development. That suggests that the HD mutation might be exerting its effects even earlier than we thought.