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Scientists edge closer to Huntington's prevention

Scientists edge closer to Huntington's prevention
7th August 2015

A study by Cardiff University has suggested that scientists are that little bit closer to developing a treatment that may be able to delay, or even prevent, symptoms of Huntington's disease.

Led by Professor Lesley Jones, the team at Cardiff University’s MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics looked into the biological mechanisms underlying the illness, examining the DNA of 6,000 people with the disease. It soon emerged that the biological process in the body that controls the repair and manufacturing of DNA could actually influence the age at which a person will develop Huntington's.

While it has been known for about 20 years that the number of times a DNA sequence repeats itself plays a role in the age at which these symptoms will develop, this research goes a bit further in tallying the ways these repeat sequences are handled by brain cells.

Professor Jones said: “In understanding the mechanisms by which nature influences the age of onset of this devastating condition, we have identified a target for potential treatments. If we can develop a way to interfere with these processes, then we could possibly delay or even prevent the onset of the disease.”

The professor was quick to state, however, that a treatment could still be at least a decade away, even if these results are very exciting.

The findings have been published in Journal Cell. There are currently 8,000 people in the UK that suffer from the condition, and at present there is no cure for it.

Huntington's is a degenerative brain disease, and those with the single defective gene are expected to live up to 20 years after the first symptoms and experience loss of cognition, uncontrollable movements and changes in personality.

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