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Natural compound shows promise against Huntington's disease
Date:11/15/2010

attention to Drosophila. In collaboration with J. Lawrence Marsh, Ph.D., a professor of developmental and cell biology at the University of California, Irvine, Maher tested fisetin in fruit flies overexpressing mutant huntingtin in neurons in the brain. The affected flies don't live as long as normal flies and also have defective eye development. When they were fed fisetin, however, the HD flies maintained their life span and had fewer eye defects.

Finally, Maher and her team tested fisetin's effects in a mouse model of HD. HD mice develop motor defects early on and have much shorter life spans than normal control animals. When Maher and her team fed them fisetin, the onset of the motor defects was delayed, and their life span was extended by about 30 percent.

"Fisetin was not able to reverse or stop the progress of the disease," Maher notes, "but the treated mice retained better motor function for longer, and they lived longer."

Fisetin, which also has anti-inflammatory properties and maintains levels of glutathione, a major cellular antioxidant that plays a key role in protecting against different types of stress in cells, has not yet been tested in humans. But Maher's findings suggest that the compound may be able to slow down the progression of Huntington's disease in humans and improve the quality of life for those who have it. While she cautions that it won't necessarily be effective for people already in the advanced stages of the disease, for those in the early stages or who are presymptomatic, fisetin might help.

Furthermore, once their safety and efficacy are proved in humans, the advent of substances like fisetin might prompt more people to be tested for the mutation. "Cells are damaged and dying before there are overt symptoms," Maher says. "If patients know they have the mutation, then they could potentially start treatment before they start showing symptoms, which might be more effective than waiting for the symptoms
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Contact: Gina Kirchweger
kirchweger@salk.edu
854-534-100-1340
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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