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UC Davis investigators achieve important step toward treating Huntington's disease
Date:1/19/2012

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) A team of researchers at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures has developed a technique for using stem cells to deliver therapy that specifically targets the genetic abnormality found in Huntington's disease, a hereditary brain disorder that causes progressive uncontrolled movements, dementia and death. The findings, now available online in the journal Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, suggest a promising approach that might block the disease from advancing.

"For the first time, we have been able to successfully deliver inhibitory RNA sequences from stem cells directly into neurons, significantly decreasing the synthesis of the abnormal huntingtin protein," said Jan A. Nolta, principal investigator of the study and director of the UC Davis stem cell program and the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures. "Our team has made a breakthrough that gives families affected by this disease hope that genetic therapy may one day become a reality."

Huntington's disease can be managed with medications, but currently there are no treatments for the physical, mental and behavioral decline of its victims. Nolta and other experts think the best chance to halt the disease's progression will be to reduce or eliminate the mutant huntingtin (htt) protein found in the neurons of those with the disease. RNA interference (RNAi) technology has been shown to be highly effective at reducing htt protein levels and reversing disease symptoms in mouse models.

"Our challenge with RNA interference technology is to figure out how to deliver it into the human brain in a sustained, safe and effective manner," said Nolta, whose lab recently received funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to develop an RNAi delivery system for Huntington's disease. "We're exploring how to use human stem cells to create RNAi production factories within the brain."

Huntington's disease affects more than a q
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Contact: Charles Casey
charles.casey@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9048
University of California - Davis Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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