Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, which mostly affects middle-aged people. It is a genetic disorder and affects muscle co-ordination, which eventually progresses into dementia.
Scientists have been unable to find a cure for the fatal brain disease. However, a new study may be the light at the end of the tunnel and may have shown researchers a possible way to stop the ailment's progression.
Huntington's Disease Progression Analysis
Researchers at Johns Hopkins analyzed the progression of the disease through the brain. This analysis yielded some important clues, which may help restrict the disease in the near future.
This research may prove to be monumental for the 30,000 patients suffering from Huntington's in the United States, as well as the 200,000 people who are in danger of inheriting the disorder.
The study was conducted using mice and human stem cells. Usually, tests on mice may produce different results when compared to human testing. However, the use of human tissue ensured that the results were the same for both mice and humans.
Jonathan Grima, the study's author, explained that the researchers discovered what he called "traffic jams" in the brain cells. These traffic jams interfered with the normal functioning of the brain, leading to Huntington's.
For the brain to function properly, proteins and salts in the cells need to move in and out. However, the Huntington's producing gene restricts this movement, which causes cells to perish and in turn damage the brain permanently.
According to Grima, scientists would need to figure out a way to prevent these traffic jams to cure the patient of the neurological disorder. The findings may also aid in finding a cure for other neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and some forms of dementia.
"This is very exciting research because we didn't know what mutant genes or proteins were doing in the body, and this points to new areas to target research," revealed George Yohrling, director at the Huntington's Disease Society of America.
However, even though the results are promising, scientists point out that a lot more testing and research is required to produce a cure for the disease.
Huntington's Disease: Symptoms And Treatment
The disease usually starts showing up in a person by the age of 30. Symptoms usually vary but include lack of co-ordination and unsteady movements. With the progression of the disease, jerky movements increase and other psychiatric disorders also start cropping up. Due to the complications, the life expectancy of the affected individual is also reduced to around 20 years, post the appearance of symptoms.
There is no cure for the disease and treatment only consists of medication, which eases the symptoms of Huntington's.
The results of the study have been published in the journal Neuron.
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