According to Krainc, the researchers found that their approach allowed proteins within the cells to degrade as they're supposed to. The strategy worked in worms, mice and the brain cells taken from dead people.
Drugs known as HDAC inhibitors have the same effect and are already being tested as treatments for Huntington's disease and cancer, Krainc said. The drugs are currently used to treat psychiatric disorders.
There are many unknowns, however. Researchers don't know whether the treatment will work in humans, and the potential costs of drugs are unclear.
Still, research may take a matter of years, not decades, Krainc said.
In the big picture, the new research "could have broad implications for a number of neurodegenerative diseases," Thompson said.
Alzheimer's disease, for example, is also caused when cells become clogged and fail to function properly.
"It's an extremely exciting and promising area of research," Thompson said, "and new and novel."
To learn more about Huntington's disease, try the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: Dimitri Krainc, M.D., Ph.D., professor, neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Leslie Thompson, Ph.D., professor, psychiatry and human behavior, University of California at Irvine; April 3, 2009, Cell
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