Amsterdam, NL, 22 April 2013 Scientific progress in Huntington's disease (HD) relies upon the availability of appropriate animal models that enable insights into the disease's genetics and/or pathophysiology. Large animal models, such as domesticated farm animals, offer some distinct advantages over rodent models, including a larger brain that is amenable to imaging and intracerebral therapy, longer lifespan, and a more human-like neuro-architecture. Three articles in the latest issue of the Journal of Huntington's Disease discuss the potential benefits of using large animal models in HD research and the implications for the development of gene therapy.
A review by Morton and Howland explores the advantages and drawbacks of small and large animal models of HD. In the same issue, Baxa et al. highlight the development of a transgenic minipig HD model that expresses a human mutant huntingtin (HTT) fragment through the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral tissues and manifests neurochemical and reproductive changes with age. In another report, Van der Bom et al. describe a technique employing CT and MRI that allows precise intracerebral application of therapeutics to transgenic HD sheep.
Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited progressive neurological disorder for which there is presently no effective treatment. It is caused by a single dominant gene mutation an expanded CAG repeat in the HTT gene - leading to expression of mutant HTT protein. Expression of mutant HTT causes changes in cellular functions, which ultimately results in uncontrollable movements, progressive psychiatric difficulties, and loss of mental abilities.
The search for new large animal models of HD arises from the recognition that there are some practical limitations of rodent and other small animal models. Because neurodegenerative diseases like HD progress over a lifetime, a rodent's short life span excludes the possibility of studying long-term
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