A recent study using mice suggests that Huntington’s disease may begin to show symptoms early on in life. For more detailed information, you can read the source article here, at The Conversation. Alternatively, you can find the original study here, in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
About Huntington’s Disease
Huntington’s disease is a genetic neurodegenerative condition that affects the brain and is often fatal. According to the NHS, symptoms usually first begin between the ages of thirty and fifty, although this is not true in all cases. People who develop symptoms of Huntington’s disease before they are twenty are often referred to as having juvenile Huntington’s disease. Symptoms of Huntington’s disease may include changes to emotions (such as mood swings or depression), difficulties moving, and concentration and memory problems, amongst others.
The recent study investigated very young mouse models of Huntington’s disease to see if, since the condition is genetic, they could identify behaviours associated with the condition that appears before the onset of ‘classical’ symptoms. The scientists found that the mouse models carrying the huntingtin gene that underlies Huntington’s disease showed higher levels of risk-taking behaviours. The researchers suggest that this could be linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. This potential ‘early stage’ of Huntington’s disease needs to be further researched, but it has been suggested that healthcare professionals in the future may be able to use this possible ‘early phase’ to help to identify the condition earlier.
A second line of enquiry in the research was how the drug Panobinostat could affect the mouse models of Huntington’s disease. Panobinostat is a new drug that is being used in some clinical trials for the treatment of cancer. The researchers gave the mouse models dosages of Panobinostat, and, according to the source article, found that it could affect the changes in gene expression linked to altered behaviour. Mice that were given Panobinostat showed less risk-taking behaviour.
The researchers say that these findings are promising for the development of new treatments to slow the course of the condition and that the ‘early stage’ may provide a “window of opportunity” for therapies.
For more information, you can view the source article here.