Huntington’s disease research news. In plain language. Written by scientists. For the global HD community.
New hints are emerging about the normal role of the gene that causes Huntington's disease. A recent report uses cutting edge techniques to study this question in cells growing in the lab. We'll help separate the fascinating new science from some scary-sounding headlines.
Researchers have long believed that the Huntington's disease gene causes problems by telling cells to make a harmful protein. Intriguing new animal work from researchers in Spain suggests we might want to look at more than one suspect to completely fix the problems caused by the HD mutation.
A relatively new technology called exome sequencing has identified a few families with novel mutations in their HD genes. These are different than the mutation that causes HD, but allow researchers to better understand the normal role of the HD gene.
Everyone with Huntington's disease has inherited the same type of mutation from their mother or father, an extra-long repetitive stretch of the sequence C-A-G in their HD gene. But the length of the mutation varies between individuals, and longer repeats are associated with earlier onset of symptoms. A huge new international study reveals that slightly longer-than-normal CAG stretches are much more common than we thought. Surprisingly, this turns out to be good news.
Just like it is difficult to predict exactly when a storm will hit, predicting when Huntington’s disease symptoms will arise for any particular person is hard to do. However, new research suggests that tiny changes in the on switch of the Huntington’s gene affect symptom onset – and may provide important information in the search for Huntington’s therapies.