One of the drugs tested, verapamil, which is currently used to treat high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias (among other indications), inhibits the influx of calcium into cells which, in turn, appears to regulate autophagy. Similarly, clonidine, currently used to treat hypertension or migraine, appears to work on autophagy by decreasing levels of cAMP, a molecule that is important in many biological processes.
If the drugs can stimulate autophagy effectively over long-term periods in human brains, then they may have the potential to help delay the onset of Huntington's disease. The candidate drugs are relatively safe and well tolerated when used to treat the diseases they were designed for. A minimal side-effect profile would be highly desirable for a drug treatment aiming to delay the onset or slow the progress of Huntington's. Such drugs may need to be taken for decades, and even moderate side effects may discourage people from taking them over a long period.
"We know the genetics of Huntington's disease and can predict the majority of people at risk," says Professor Rubinsztein. "If we can find a safe, well tolerated drug, then a person at risk could be placed on a drug regime to help prevent onset. It is much easier to stop something happening than having to treat it once it has started."
Professor Rubinsztein and colleagues will shortly begin testing the drugs in other animal models to evaluate their safety and efficacy.
|Contact: Craig Brierley|