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Huntington’s breakthrough may stop disease

Discussion in 'Other health news and research' started by Ron, Dec 12, 2017.

  1. Ron

    Ron Established Member (Voting Rights)

    I thought some here might find this article interesting. I posted a few interesting excerpts from the article.


    An experimental drug, injected into spinal fluid, safely lowered levels of toxic proteins in the brain.
    The research team, at University College London, say there is now hope the deadly disease can be stopped.
    Experts say it could be the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years.

    The unstoppable death of brain cells in Huntington's leaves patients in permanent decline, affecting their movement, behaviour, memory and ability to think clearly.

    Huntington's is caused by an error in a section of DNA called the huntingtin gene.
    Normally this contains the instructions for making a protein, called huntingtin, which is vital for brain development.
    But a genetic error corrupts the protein and turns it into a killer of brain cells.
    The treatment is designed to silence the gene.

    But the principle that a gene, any gene affecting disease progression and susceptibility, can be safely modified in this way in humans is very exciting and builds momentum and confidence in pursuing these avenues for potential treatments."
    JohnM, EzzieD, Inara and 19 others like this.
  2. Piper

    Piper Established Member

    I saw that article. I wonder how far away it is from being accessible to all?

    At what point would it halt disease progression? Could it be used on those already in mid to late stage disease?

    Huntingtons is a horrible disease.
    EzzieD, Barry, Scarecrow and 4 others like this.
  3. Alvin

    Alvin Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    That is insanely good news :)
    I hope they don't price it out of reach or destroy the life savings of sufferers.
    EzzieD, Barry, Allele and 2 others like this.
  4. arewenearlythereyet

    arewenearlythereyet Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I saw this on the news last night too. They certainly got top billing on the 6 O clock news.

    I guess if this is relevant for PWME (or a sub set of them) they would need to find a genetic link for this to be relevant (if I have understood the science right).

    It is fantastic news for Huntingdons though and possibly many other genetic conditions that affect the brain.:)
    EzzieD, Yessica, Jessie 107 and 6 others like this.
  5. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Fingers crossed it all work out for them. That would be amazing.
    Binkie4, Yessica, Barry and 3 others like this.
  6. Piper

    Piper Established Member

    Huntingtons lives in my close circle of people. I don't have any words to describe how cruel it is.

    It's been interesting as it's gotten more exposure in the entertainment media here in Australia lately. Twice it's been mentioned accurately in Australian made new drama/sit coms over the past few months.
    Binkie4, Ron, Barry and 1 other person like this.
  7. Forbin

    Forbin Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Another article from The Washington Post:

    'Phenomenal' trial results may lead to a treatment for Huntington's disease, experts say

  8. Little Bluestem

    Little Bluestem Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    If the silenced, corrupt gene is still not producing the huntingtin protein which is vital for brain development, isn't the person still going to have problems?
    Wonko, Ron and Forbin like this.
  9. Forbin

    Forbin Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I wondered about this. I also wonder how often the drug has to be administered. I think it has to be injected into the spine and there might be issues with doing that repeatedly. Still, these concerns no doubt pale compared to the consequences of the untreated disease.
    Little Bluestem and Ron like this.
  10. Valentijn

    Valentijn Guest

    I can't find a copy of the paper yet, or even an abstract, but the lead author's recent work says this about the general subject:
    Huntingtin's is autosomal dominant, meaning patients usually just have one bad copy of the gene. Ideally, you'd want to turn off the bad copy and leave the good copy running normally, but the technology doesn't exist yet. So the solution for now is dial down the production of both the good and bad copies, so the bad ones don't cause as much damage, while there's still enough good copies produced to carry out the necessary functions of the gene.

    This makes sense, since genes don't need to be at 100% of their possible functionality to function acceptably, or even optimally. From what I saw when reading research into methylation and similar mutations, there's typically little or no health problem until functionality gets to under 25-30%. So cutting the protein production in half probably is pretty safe, and would be in line with the article reporting no side effects from this treatment.

    But that means that this technique isn't a cure. It's a temporary reprieve, and the toxic protein continues to be produced and cause damage. It's just slowing it down quite a bit, so probably extending lifetime and functionality somewhat.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  11. TrixieStix

    TrixieStix Senior Member (Voting Rights)


    "The splashy news a couple days ago that there may have been a “major breakthrough” on Huntington’s Disease caught my eye. I was hoping that there was concrete reason for optimism such as a new paper and no hype here.

    Unfortunately, it feels to me like this Huntington’s Disease story was premature and hyped in the media in some cases. It’s not fair to patients to oversell scientific developments and especially to make bold statements before papers are published. Again, Huntington’s is a terrible disease. The patient advocacy community has been hard at work to advance new transformative therapies so they deserve balanced coverage."

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