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Tufts University biologists link Huntington's disease to health benefits in young
Date:9/25/2007

h the disease. In this new hypothesis, the Tufts researchers suggest that p53 not only reduces the incidence of cancer in those affected by Huntington's disease but by improving overall health may also contribute to increased offspring production.

The Tufts team analyzed the often-noted fertility gap between people who have Huntingtons and those who do not. Studies comparing family members indicated that individuals with the disease had between 1.14 and 1.34 children for every child born to an unaffected sibling. In explaining this difference, previous researchers have theorized that psychological deterioration and difficulty in discriminating between right and wrong - both symptoms associated with Huntingtons are reasons for promiscuous behavior in people who had the disease. But Eskenazi, Wilson-Rich and Starks observed that such behavior takes place later in life not during peak reproductive age. They noted that the onset of Huntington's disease occurs, on average, at 41.5 years of age.

In their alternative hypothesis the Tufts researchers suggested that individuals affected with Huntingtons have better health earlier in life at the time when their fertility is highest. Weve raised the possibility that the high birth rates are a result of better health, explained Starks. We know that healthy people have more offspring than those who are sick."

Starks and his team suggested that one key factor behind these health benefits may be p53, and pointed to a 1999 study by doctors at the Danish Huntington Disease Registry at the University of Copenhagen that found lower age-adjusted cancer rates for individuals affected by Huntingtons. "Research has shown that individuals with Huntington's produce higher levels of cancer-suppressing p53, and we hypothesize that they may also reap the health benefits associated with a generally more vigilant immune system," said Starks. "These individuals also suffer from the negative impacts of heighten
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Contact: Alex Reid
alexander.reid@tufts.edu
617-627-4173
Tufts University
Source:Eurekalert

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