Huntington’s disease research news. In plain language. Written by scientists. For the global HD community.
The first in a monthly series of FAQ articles covering hot topics and burning issues in the science behind HD.
The search for better treatments for HD requires a lot of effort by researchers across the globe. Time is of the essence: the ideal time for a treatment for HD is yesterday. Scientific findings need to be made available sooner rather than later, so that others can build on what is already known. PLoS Currents HD is a new journal launched to speed up the process of scientific discovery in HD.
Dimebon, a drug developed in Russia as an anti-allergy medication, is under investigation as a possible treatment to improve thinking problems in HD. There was disappointment when a recent large trial of Dimebon to treat Alzheimer’s disease in the USA showed no benefit, but hope remains in HD where the DIMOND trial is continuing across Europe.
Build-up of unwanted chemicals in cells is one way the HD mutation causes damage to neurons. A cellular recycling process called autophagy is crucial to getting rid of these harmful chemicals. Now researchers have found a way of identifying safe drugs that can increase the rate of garbage disposal in HD.
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.
A group of researchers working on ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in yeast cells have found an unexpected genetic link between ALS and SCA-2, a disease in the same genetic family as HD. New links between these diseases might reveal new ways of approaching the search for treatments for diseases like HD.
In an article in the medical journal The Lancet, Sir Michael Rawlins claims that traditional estimates of how common Huntington’s disease is, might be dramatic underestimates. Why might this be, and what does it mean for the HD community and the search for effective treatments?
When it comes to studying a disease that progresses slowly, like HD, there is strength in numbers. Studying many patients repeatedly over several years can give us powerful insights that can’t be gained through other research techniques. That’s why two of the largest observational studies, COHORT and REGISTRY are joining forces to form ENROLL-HD, the world’s largest ever study of HD patients.
2010 was a big year for the small Danish pharmacology company NeuroSearch and its experimental drug, Huntexil, which aims to improve the movements and coordination of people with HD symptoms. What have NeuroSearch's two clinical trials - MermaiHD in Europe and HART in the USA - told us about the possible benefits of Huntexil - and what is likely to happen next?