Posts tagged huntington
Posts tagged huntington
July 18, 2012
A new guideline released by the American Academy of Neurology recommends several treatments for people with Huntington’s disease who experience chorea—jerky, random, uncontrollable movements that can make everyday activities challenging. The guideline is published in the July 18, 2012, online issue of Neurology.
“Chorea can be disabling, worsen weight loss and increase the risk of falling,” said guideline lead author Melissa Armstrong, MD, MSc, with the University of Maryland Department of Neurology and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Huntington’s disease is a complex disease with physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms. The new guideline addresses only one aspect of the disease that may require treatment.
The guideline found that the drugs tetrabenazine (TBZ), riluzole and amantadine can be helpful and the drug nabilone may also be considered to treat chorea. The medications riluzole, amantadine and nabilone are not often prescribed for Huntington’s disease.
“People with Huntington’s disease who have chorea should discuss with their doctors whether treating chorea is a priority. Huntington’s disease is complex with a wide range of sometimes severe symptoms and treating other symptoms may be a higher priority than treating chorea,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong adds that it is important for patients to understand that their doctors may try drugs not recommended in this guideline to treat chorea. More research is needed to know if drugs such as those used for psychosis are effective; however, doctors may prescribe them on the basis of past clinical experience.
Provided by American Academy of Neurology
July 11, 2012
In a paper published in the July 11 online issue of Science Translational Medicine, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified two key regulatory proteins critical to clearing away misfolded proteins that accumulate and cause the progressive, deadly neurodegeneration of Huntington’s disease (HD).
This is a human neuron. UC San Diego scientists have identified a pair of proteins that help clear away other misfolded proteins responsible for the progressive degeneration of brain cells in Huntington’s disease. Credit: UC San Diego School of Medicine
The findings explain a fundamental aspect of how HD wreaks havoc within cells and provides “clear, therapeutic opportunities,” said principal investigator Albert R. La Spada, MD, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine, chief of the Division of Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics and associate director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at UC San Diego.
“We think the implications are significant,” said La Spada. “It’s a lead we can vigorously pursue, not just for Huntington’s disease, but also for similar neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease and maybe even Alzheimer’s disease.”
In HD, an inherited mutation in the huntingtin (htt) gene results in misfolded htt proteins accumulating in certain central nervous system cells, leading to progressive deterioration of involuntary movement control, cognitive decline and psychological problems. More than 30,000 Americans have HD. There are no effective treatments currently to either cure the disease or slow its progression.
La Spada and colleagues focused on a protein called PGC-1alpha, which helps regulate the creation and operation of mitochondria, the tiny organelles that generate the fuel required for every cell to function.
“It’s all about energy,” La Spada said. “Neurons have a constant, high demand for it. They’re always on the edge for maintaining adequate levels of energy production. PGC-1alpha regulates the function of transcription factors that promote the creation of mitochondria and allow them to run at full capacity.”
Previous studies by La Spada and others discovered that the mutant form of the htt gene interfered with normal levels and functioning of PGC-1alpha. “This study confirms that,” La Spada said. More surprising was the discovery that elevated levels of PGC-1alpha in a mouse model of HD virtually eliminated the problematic misfolded proteins.
Specifically, PGC-1alpha influenced expression of another protein vital to autophagy – the process in which healthy cells degrade and recycle old, unneeded or dangerous parts and products, including oxidative, damaging molecules generated by metabolism. For neurons, which must last a lifetime, the self-renewal is essential to survival.
“Mitochondria get beat up and need to be recycled,” La Spada said. “PGC-1alpha drives this pathway through another protein called transcription factor EB or TFEB. We were unaware of this connection before, because TFEB is a relatively new player, though clearly emerging as a leading actor. We discovered that even without PGC-1alpha induction, TFEB can prevent htt aggregation and neurotoxicity.”
In their experiments, HD mice crossbred with mice that produced greater levels of PGC-1alpha showed dramatic improvement. Production of misfolded proteins was essentially eliminated and the mice behaved normally. “Degeneration of brain cells is prevented. Neurons don’t die,” said La Spada.
PGC-1alpha and TFEB provide two new therapeutic targets for Huntington’s disease, according to La Spada. “If you can induce the bioenergetics and protein quality control pathways of nervous system cells to function properly, by activating the PGC-1alpha pathway and promoting greater TFEB function, you stand a good chance of maintaining neural function for an extended period of time. If we could achieve the level of increased function necessary to eliminate misfolded proteins, we might nip the disease process in the bud. That would go a long way toward treating this devastating condition.”
Provided by University of California - San Diego
July 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress) — Human brain cells showing aspects of Huntington’s Disease have been developed, opening up new research pathways for treating the fatal disorder.
An international consortium, including scientists from the School of Biosciences, has taken cells from Huntington’s Disease patients and generated human brain cells that develop aspects of the disease in the laboratory. The cells and the new technology will speed up research into understanding the disease and also accelerate drug discovery programs aimed at treating this terminal, genetic disorder.
Huntington’s Disease is an aggressive, neurodegenerative disorder which causes loss of co-ordination, psychiatric problems, dementia and death. Scientists have known the genetic cause of this disease for more than 20 years but research has been hampered by the lack of human brain cells with which to study the disease and screen for effective drugs.
The new breakthrough involves taking skin cells from patients with Huntington’s disease. The scientific team reprogrammed these cells into stem cells which were then turned into the brain cells affected by the disorder. The brain cells demonstrate characteristics of the disease and will allow the consortium to investigate the mechanisms that cause the brain cells to die.
Dr. Nicholas Allen, one of the lead investigators at the School of Biosciences, said: “This breakthrough allows us to generate brain cells with many of the hallmarks of this disease, within just a few weeks. This means that we can study both the normal physiology of these brain cells, and the pathological processes that lead to their death.”
The other Cardiff lead, Professor Paul Kemp, said: “Huntington’s Disease normally takes years to manifest in the human brain. Now we have a fast and reproducible model of this disease, offering fresh hope for the discovery of new therapies.”
The corresponding author of the paper, Professor Clive Svendsen, a UK scientist and now director of the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute in the USA, said “This Huntington’s ‘disease in a dish’ will enable us for the first time to test therapies on human Huntington’s disease neurons. In addition to increasing our understanding of this disorder and offering a new pathway to identifying treatments, this study is remarkable because of the extensive interactions between a large group of scientists focused on developing this model. It’s a new way of doing trailblazing science.”
Director of the School of Biosciences, Professor Ole Petersen said: “This is an extremely important development and I am delighted to see colleagues from the School of Biosciences playing their part in this distinguished international team. I look forward to seeing future stages, when this new technique is put to work modeling the diseases and testing potential treatments.”
Provided by Cardiff University
ScienceDaily (July 2, 2012) — Using an in vitro cell model of Huntington’s disease (HD), researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine have discovered a novel mechanism and potential link between mutant huntingtin, cell loss and cell death or apoptosis in the brain, which is responsible for the devastating effects of this disease. Apoptosis has been proposed as one of the mechanisms leading to neuronal death in HD.
Dr. Jianning Wei, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical science in the Schmidt College of Medicine, has received a $428,694 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled “Regulation of BimEL phosphorylation in the pathogenesis of Huntington’s disease.” With this grant, she will further her research and investigation of the molecular and physiological functions of BimEL, a protein known to promote cell death, in a rodent HD model to better understand the pathogenesis of this disease and develop treatments and therapies to prevent or slow down its progression. Wei’s previous findings may also represent a universal mechanism in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases that are involved with protein misfolding and aggregation — a phenomenon that occurs in many highly debilitating disorders including neurodegenerative diseases.
HD is a fatal, inherited disease caused by abnormal repeats of a small segment in an individual’s DNA or genetic code. The production of malfunctioning proteins in the body are results of this mutation, and the more repeat the protein contains, the worse the disease. A person who has the disease carries one normal copy of the gene and one mutated copy in his or her cells. Although the mutated forms of these genes are known for their devastating effects, their normal forms are critical for nerve function, embryonic development and other bodily processes. Similar mutations in other proteins are involved in several other neurodegenerative diseases.
“HD is a highly complex genetic, neurological disorder that causes certain nerve cells in the brain to waste away, and the underlying molecular mechanism of this disease still remains elusive,” said Wei. “We are continuing our research to identify the pathways in the brain that are altered in response to mutant proteins, as well as to understand the cellular processes impacted by the disease in order to facilitate the development of effective pharmacological interventions.”
Named after American physician George Huntington, HD is characterized by a selective loss of neurons in the brain and affects the basal ganglia, which controls motor control, cognition, learning and emotions. It also affects the outer surface of the brain or the cortex, which controls thought, perception, and memory. It is estimated that more than 250,000 Americans have HD or are at risk of inheriting the disease from an affected parent.
“The vital research that Dr. Wei and her colleagues are conducting at Florida Atlantic University will help to shed light on a very devastating and difficult disease for which there are currently no treatments available to stop or reverse its course,” said Dr. David J. Bjorkman, M.D., M.S.P.H., dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.
Source: Science Daily
ScienceDaily (June 28, 2012) — Johns Hopkins researchers, working with an international consortium, say they have generated stem cells from skin cells from a person with a severe, early-onset form of Huntington’s disease (HD), and turned them into neurons that degenerate just like those affected by the fatal inherited disorder.
By creating “HD in a dish,” the researchers say they have taken a major step forward in efforts to better understand what disables and kills the cells in people with HD, and to test the effects of potential drug therapies on cells that are otherwise locked deep in the brain.
Although the autosomal dominant gene mutation responsible for HD was identified in 1993, there is no cure. No treatments are available even to slow its progression.
The research, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, is the work of a Huntington’s Disease iPSC Consortium, including scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine, as well as six other groups. The consortium studied several other HD cell lines and control cell lines in order to make sure results were consistent and reproducible in different labs.
The general midlife onset and progressive brain damage of HD are especially cruel, slowly causing jerky, twitch-like movements, lack of muscle control, psychiatric disorders and dementia, and — eventually — death. In some cases (as in the patient who donated the material for the cells made at Johns Hopkins), the disease can strike earlier, even in childhood.
“Having these cells will allow us to screen for therapeutics in a way we haven’t been able to before in Huntington’s disease,” saysChristopher A. Ross, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, neurology, pharmacology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and one of the study’s lead researchers. “For the first time, we will be able to study how drugs work on human HD neurons and hopefully take those findings directly to the clinic.”
Ross and his team, as well as other collaborators at Johns Hopkins and Emory University, are already testing small molecules for the ability to block HD iPSC degeneration.These small molecules have the potential to be developed into novel drugs for HD.
The ability to generate from stem cells the same neurons found in Huntington’s disease may also have implications for similar research in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
To conduct their experiment, Ross took a skin biopsy from a patient with very early onset HD.When seen by Ross at the HD Center at Hopkins, the patient was just seven years old. She had a very severe form of the disease, which rarely appears in childhood, and of the mutation that causes it. Using cells from a patient with a more rapidly progressing form of the disease gave Ross’ team the best tools with which to replicate HD in a way that is applicable to patients with all forms of HD.
Her skin cells were grown in culture and then reprogrammed by the lab of Hongjun Song, Ph.D., a professor at Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering, into induced pluripotent stem cells. A second cell line was generated in an identical fashion in Dr. Ross’s lab from someone without HD. Simultaneously, other HD and control iPS cell lines were generated as part of the NINDS funded HD iPS cell consortium.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins and other consortium labs converted those cells into generic neurons and then into medium spiny neurons, a process that took three months. What they found was that the medium spiny neurons deriving from HD cells behaved just as they expected medium spiny neurons from an HD patient would. They showed rapid degeneration when cultured in the lab using basic culture medium without extensive supporting nutrients. By contrast, control cell lines did not show neuronal degeneration.
“These HD cells acted just as we were hoping,” says Ross, director of the Baltimore Huntington’s Disease Center. “A lot of people said, ‘You’ll never be able to get a model in a dish of a human neurodegenerative disease like this.’ Now, we have them where we can really study and manipulate them, and try to cure them of this horrible disease. The fact that we are able to do this at all still amazes us.”
Specifically, the damage caused by HD is due to a mutation in the huntingtin gene (HTT), which leads to the production of an abnormal and toxic version of the huntingtin protein. Although all of the cells in a person with HD contain the mutation, HD mainly targets the medium spiny neurons in the striatum, part of the brain’s basal ganglia that coordinates movement, thought and emotion. The ability to work directly with human medium spiny neurons is the best way, researchers believe, to determine why these specific cells are susceptible to cell stress and degeneration and, in turn, to help find a way to halt progression of HD.
Much HD research is conducted in mice. And while mouse models have been helpful in understanding some aspects of the disease, researchers say nothing compares with being able to study actual human neurons affected by HD.
For years, scientists have been excited about the prospect of making breakthroughs in curing disease through the use of stem cells, which have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types. In the form of embryonic stem cells, they do so naturally during gestation and early life. In recent years, researchers have been able to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are adult cells (like the skin cells used in Ross’s experiments) that have been genetically reprogrammed back to the most primitive state. In this state, under the right circumstances, they can then develop into most or all of the 200 cell types in the human body.
Source: Science Daily
June 20, 2012
With a single drug treatment, researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine can silence the mutated gene responsible for Huntington’s disease, slowing and partially reversing progression of the fatal neurodegenerative disorder in animal models.
This image shows stained mouse neurons. Credit: Image courtesy of Taylor Bayouth
The findings are published in the June 21, 2012 online issue of the journal Neuron.
Researchers suggest the drug therapy, tested in mouse and non-human primate models, could produce sustained motor and neurological benefits in human adults with moderate and severe forms of the disorder. Currently, there is no effective treatment.
Huntington’s disease afflicts approximately 30,000 Americans, whose symptoms include uncontrolled movements and progressive cognitive and psychiatric problems. The disease is caused by the mutation of a single gene, which results in the production and accumulation of toxic proteins throughout the brain.
Don W. Cleveland, PhD, professor and chair of the UC San Diego Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and colleagues infused mouse and primate models of Huntington’s disease with one-time injections of an identified DNA drug based on antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs). These ASOs selectively bind to and destroy the mutant gene’s molecular instructions for making the toxic huntingtin protein.
The singular treatment produced rapid results. Treated animals began moving better within one month and achieved normal motor function within two. More remarkably, the benefits persisted, lasting nine months, well after the drug had disappeared and production of the toxic proteins had resumed.
“For diseases like Huntington’s, where a mutant protein product is tolerated for decades prior to disease onset, these findings open up the provocative possibility that transient treatment can lead to a prolonged benefit to patients,” said Cleveland. “This finding raises the prospect of a ‘huntingtin holiday,’ which may allow for clearance of disease-causing species that might take weeks or months to re-form. If so, then a single application of a drug to reduce expression of a target gene could ‘reset the disease clock,’ providing a benefit long after huntingtin suppression has ended.”
Beyond improving motor and cognitive function, researchers said the ASO treatment also blocked brain atrophy and increased lifespan in mouse models with a severe form of the disease. The therapy was equally effective whether one or both huntingtin genes were mutated, a positive indicator for human therapy.
Cleveland noted that the approach was particularly promising because antisense therapies have already been proven safe in clinical trials and are the focus of much drug development. Moreover, the findings may have broader implications, he said, for other “age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases that develop from exposure to a mutant protein product” and perhaps for nervous system cancers, such as glioblastomas.
Provided by University of California - San Diego
June 18, 2012
A new study shows that the compound Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ) reduces oxidative damage, a key finding that hints at its potential to slow the progression of Huntington disease. The discovery, which appears in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Huntington’s Disease, also points to a new biomarker that could be used to screen experimental treatments for this and other neurological disorders.
“This study supports the hypothesis that CoQ exerts antioxidant effects in patients with Huntington’s disease and therefore is a treatment that warrants further study,” says University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Kevin M. Biglan, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study. “As importantly, it has provided us with a new method to evaluate the efficacy of potential new treatments.”
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a genetic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder that impacts movement, behavior, cognition, and generally results in death within 20 years of the disease’s onset. While the precise causes and mechanism of the disease are not completely understood, scientists believe that one of the important triggers of the disease is a genetic “stutter” which produces abnormal protein deposits in brain cells. It is believed that these deposits – through a chain of molecular events – inhibit the cell’s ability to meet its energy demands resulting in oxidative stress and, ultimately, cellular death.
Scientists had previously identified the correlation between a specific fragment of genetic code, called 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine (80HdG) and the presence of oxidative stress in brain cells. 80HdG can be detected in a person’s blood, meaning that it could serve as a convenient and accessible biomarker for the disease. Researchers have also been evaluating the compound Coenzyme Q10 as a possible treatment for HD because of its ability to support the function of mitochondria – the tiny power plants the provide cells with energy – and counter oxidative stress.
The study’s authors evaluated a series of blood samples of 20 individuals with HD who had previously undergone treatment with CoQ in clinical trial titled Pre-2Care. While these studies showed that CoQ alleviated some symptoms of the disease, it was not known what impact – if any – the treatment had at the molecular level in the brain. Upon analysis, the authors found that 80HdG levels dropped by 20 percent in individuals who had been treated with CoQ.
CoQ is currently being evaluated in a Phase 3 clinical trial, which is the largest therapeutic clinical study to date for HD. The trial – called 2Care – is being run by the Huntington Study Group, an international networks or investigators.
“Identifying treatments that slow the progression or delay the onset of Huntington’s disease is a major focus of the medical community,” said Biglan. “This study demonstrates that 80HdG could be an ideal marker to identify the presence oxidative injury and whether or not treatment is having an impact.”
Provided by University of Rochester Medical Center
June 18, 2012
Studies suggest that neurotrophic factors, which play a role in the development and survival of neurons, have significant therapeutic and restorative potential for neurologic diseases such as Huntington’s disease. However, clinical applications are limited because these proteins cannot easily cross the blood brain barrier, have a short half-life, and cause serious side effects. Now, a group of scientists has successfully treated neurological symptoms in laboratory rats by implanting a device to deliver a genetically engineered neurotrophic factor directly to the brain. They report on their results in the latest issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.
The tip of the EC biodelivery system, a straw-like device that is implanted in the brain of patients, contains living cells which are genetically modified to produce a therapeutic factor. The membrane enclosing the cells allows the factor to flow out of the device and into the patient’s brain tissue. This way, areas deep within the brain affected by Huntington’s disease can be treated to delay or prevent the disease. Credit: Jens Tornøe, NsGene A/S, Ballerup, Denmark
Researchers used Encapsulated Cell (EC) biodelivery, a platform which can be applied using conventional minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures to target deep brain structures with therapeutic proteins. “Our study adds to the continually increasing body of preclinical and clinical data positioning EC biodelivery as a promising therapeutic delivery method for larger biomolecules. It combines the therapeutic advantages of gene therapy with the well-established safety of a retrievable implant,” says lead investigator Jens Tornøe, NsGene A/S, Ballerup, Denmark.
Investigators made a catheter-like device consisting of a hollow fiber membrane encapsulating a polymeric “scaffold,” which provides a surface area to which neurotrophic factor-producing cells can attach. When implanted in the brain, the membrane allows the neurotrophic factor to flow out of the device, as well as allowing nutrients in. Dr. Tornøe and his colleagues used the neurotrophic factor Meteorin, which plays a role in the development of striatal projection neurons, whose degeneration is a hallmark of Huntington’s disease. The scientists engineered ARPE-19 cells to produce Meteorin and used those that produced high levels of Meteorin in their experiment.
The EC biodelivery devices were implanted in the brains of rats followed by injection with quinolinic acid (QA), a potent neurotoxin that causes excitotoxicity, a component of Huntington’s disease. They tested three different implant types: devices filled with the high-producing ARPE-19 cells (EC-Meteorin), devices with unmodified ARPE-19 cells (ARPE-19), and devices without cells. Motor dysfunction was tested immediately prior to injection with QA and at two and four weeks after injection.
The research team found that the EC-Meteorin devices significantly protected against QA-induced toxicity. Rats with EC-Meteorin devices manifested near normal neurological performance and significantly reduced loss of brain cells from the QA injection compared to controls. Analysis of the Meteorin-treated brains showed a markedly reduced striatal lesion size. The EC biodelivery devices were found to produce stable or even increasing levels of Meteorin throughout the study. Meteorin diffused readily from the biodelivery device to the striatal tissue.
“Huntington’s disease can be diagnosed with high accuracy by genetic testing. Pre-symptomatic administration of a safe therapeutic treatment providing sustained delay or prevention of disease would be of great benefit to patients,” says Dr. Tornøe. “With additional functional and safety data, tests in animals larger than the rat to study distribution, and more accurate disease models to evaluate the therapeutic potential of Meteorin, we anticipate that EC biodelivery can be developed as a platform technology for targeted therapy in patients with Huntington’s disease.”
Provided by IOS Press
June 7, 2012
The Huntington Study Group (HSG), under the leadership of Ray Dorsey, M.D. with Johns Hopkins Medical and Diana Rosas, M.D. with Massachusetts General Hospital, is conducting a clinical trial in Huntington’s disease (HD) throughout the United States and Australia, “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, study to assess the safety and tolerability, and efficacy of PBT2 in patients with early to mid-stage Huntington’s disease” comparing a 100 mg dose or 250 mg dose versus placebo. The HSG is a not-for-profit group of physicians and other clinical researchers who are experienced in the care of HD patients and dedicated to clinical research of the disease. This trial is sponsored by Prana Biotechnology Limited (Melbourne, Australia) and is being managed by the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Huntington’s disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disease which affects over 30,000 people in both the United States and Australia. HD is characterized by brain cell death that usually begins between the ages of 30 to 50, and results in motor, cognitive and behavioral signs and symptoms. While there are medications to help relieve some of the disease symptoms, there is no known treatment to address the cognitive impairment associated with HD.
Research has shown that normally occurring metals in the brain play a significant role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and more recently, HD. Researchers at Prana Biotechnology are identifying drugs designed to interrupt interactions between these biological metals and target proteins in the brain, to prevent deterioration of brain cells. One of the chemical compounds, called PBT2, has shown in animal models, and as well as in a small group of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, that it may improve cognition. There is some indication in animal models of HD, that the drug may improve motor function and control, increase life span and reduce the amount of brain cell degeneration. Based on these results, Prana is investigating whether the drug will have similar effects with HD patients.
Reach2HD will evaluate how safe and well tolerated PBT2 is at a dose of 100 mg or 250 mg a day compared to a placebo over six months. The trial will also measure whether there is an effect on cognitive abilities as well as other HD symptoms including motor and overall functioning of individuals with HD.
“We are excited to work with Prana to investigate the safety and tolerability of an interesting and innovative experimental treatment for Huntington’s disease, PBT2,” said Dorsey. “We have few treatment options for Huntington disease, and none for cognition. We hope this is a step to addressing this large unmet need for patients and their families.”
Provided by University of Rochester Medical Center