Huntington’s disease research news. In plain language. Written by scientists. For the global HD community.
If media reports of a "wonder-drug" that could "stop all neurodegenerative brain diseases, including dementia” seem too good to be true, that's because they are. The truth behind the headlines is that researchers tested thousands of already-licensed drugs in worms, and a couple that went on to show beneficial effects in mouse models of two rare forms of dementia. While it gives researchers two new leads, this research doesn't prove anything about these drugs in patients with neurodegenerative diseases, and has virtually nothing to do with Huntington's disease at all.
Exciting new studies provide evidence that a particular kind of cellular trafficking goes awry in Huntington's Disease. Specifically, researchers have learned that traffic in and out of the cells control center - the nucleus - breaks down in HD. These findings open up new avenues for HD research.
Beyond affecting movement, mood, and thinking, HD involves a complex set of changes to the body that can be difficult to predict in different individuals. Recently, researchers were able to identify consistent early changes in metabolism by studying a group of HD sheep. This large animal model is helping scientists to track altered substances in the blood that could predict HD progression and response to treatment.
Recent days have seen a slew of news emerging regarding the use of something called genome editing as a potential therapy for genetic diseases like Huntington's Disease. These approaches, which include exotic sounding tools like zinc finger nucleases and CRISPR/Cas9, differ from more traditional ways reducing the impact of the HD mutation on cells. What's new in this exciting area of research?
When the ‘healthy’ HD gene functions as it should, one of its many jobs is in the development of normal embryos. Researchers have long assumed that the ‘mutant’ HD gene inherited by people with HD is still able to do this job, since HD patients develop normally and don’t show signs until later in life. A surprising new finding suggests we may have to think carefully about this assumption!
New therapies for disorders like Huntington’s disease are on the way, but getting the drugs to enter brain cells can be a major challenge. A group of scientists has redesigned and tested a harmless virus that can efficiently deliver a 'gene silencing' message throughout the brain in mice, much further than naturally occurring viruses can reach. What's more, it can be given with a simple injection into the blood, offering great potential for research in gene silencing research and beyond.
Researchers have found a connection between HD and an energy-regulating protein called PPAR-delta. Giving PPAR-delta a boost with an existing drug was protective in HD cells and mice, but we’ll likely need to research and test it further before it can go to the HD clinic.
Researchers have developed a new technique that allows them to screen for genes that could contribute to the progression of Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. This is the first time this is possible in the mammalian central nervous system. They used the technique in an HD mouse to uncover an antioxidant gene, Gpx6, which is protective to neurons.
Most research on Huntington’s disease is done using animal models that mimic the human disease. However, these models typically recreate only a few of the disease’s symptoms, and there are some important symptoms that don’t show up in any model at all. Now, exciting new research is making great strides against these problems – and teaching us about the disease at the same time.