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Researchers link Huntington's disease to overactive immune response in the brain
Date:7/14/2008

of Huntington's disease patients, we were very excited," Moeller said. "Inflammation in the brain has been increasingly recognized as an important component in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. These findings might open the door to novel therapeutic approaches for Huntington's disease that target inflammation."

The team at University College London focused their work on immune cells in the bloodstream, and found similar results linking the disease to the body's immune response.

"The similar effect in the blood of Huntington's patients suggests that we have discovered a new pathway in the disease by which the mutant protein could cause damage," Moeller explained. "The protein could be causing damage through an abnormally overactive immune system in both the blood and the brain. While damage from Huntington's is typically seen in the brain, this new pathway is quite easy to detect in the blood of patients, so we may have found a unique window from the blood into what the disease is doing in the brain."

The immune response in the blood may also help researchers use immune-system molecules as biological markers for the disease, which can be difficult to diagnose in early stages. Better tracking of Huntington's disease progression may help researchers to fine-tune interventions aimed at slowing the disease before it has affected as much brain tissue.

Huntington's affects an estimated 30,000 people in the United States. It is characterized by loss of motor control and cognitive functions, as well as by depression or other psychiatric problems.


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Contact: Justin Reedy
jreedy@u.washington.edu
206-685-0382
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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