Study Could Lead to Advances in Treatment of Huntington’s Disease

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A collaboration between the Boston University School of Medicine, the McLean Brain Tissue Resource Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Columbia University produced breakthroughs in the understanding of Huntington’s disease and how it affects the brain. As reported on Medical Xpress, investigators involved in a study examined 664 donated brain samples with Huntington’s disease and observed the effects on more than 50 areas within those brains. They concluded that the disease damages two areas of the brain, the striatum, which is involved in motor control and involuntary movement, and the outer cortical regions, which are involved in cognitive functions and thought process.

Huntington’s disease is a fatal disorder usually diagnosed in individuals around 40 years old. The gene responsible is inherited and was identified in 1993, but there remain many questions about why the disease attacks the brain the way it does.

Researchers found that cell death occurred differently in different brain samples. Their conclusions were that cell death in the striatum was caused by the Huntington gene, but effects on the cortex were more likely caused by unidentified side effects of the disease.

Researchers hope that this study will allow them to identify the reasons that some brains with the Huntington’s gene experience less cell death. They can then develop new ways to treat the disease to slow, or possibly stop, the loss of function associated with it.

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