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Test reveals effectiveness of potential Huntington's disease drugs

>In the latest UT Southwestern study, the researchers cultured striatal spiny neurons from the brains of mice genetically engineered to express the mutant human Huntington gene. As predicted, glutamate killed the Huntington's neurons, but the scientists also tested five clinically relevant glutamate inhibitors to assess their protective ability.

Folic acid has been suggested as a treatment for people with Huntington's because it interacts with homocysteine, a compound that makes nerve cells more vulnerable to glutamate. Gabapentin and lamotrigine, both glutamate inhibitors, are used in epilepsy treatment and as a mood stabilizer, respectively. These three compounds did not significantly protect the cultured cells.

However, a drug called memantine, which is used to treat Alzheimer's disease, and riluzole, used in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, did protect the cells. Memantine demonstrated a stronger effect in the study. Memantine has also shown evidence of retarding the progression of Huntington's in people, while riluzole has helped relieve some symptoms.

"Our results provide the first systematic comparison of various clinically relevant glutamate pathway inhibitors for HD treatment and indicate that memantine holds the most promise based on its in vitro efficacy," Dr. Bezprozvanny said. "Whole animal studies of memantine in an HD mouse model will be required to validate these findings."
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Source:UT Southwestern Medical Center


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