New Huntington’s disease treatment from Irish team shows early promise

20 Jul 2017

Walnuts symbolising the degeneration of a person’s brain, experienced during Huntington’s disease. Image: VeronikaChe/Shutterstock

New research conducted by an Irish team into a possible treatment for Huntington’s disease is showing significant early promise.

In the fight to find an effective treatment for Huntington’s disease – an inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes serious cognitive and movement defects – a team from NUI Galway believes it is on the right track.

In a paper published to Scientific Reports, Prof Robert Lahue and his team collaborated with another group of researchers from University of Barcelona to target an enzyme called histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3).

Future Human

The enzyme is believed to alter important biochemical mechanisms in the brain of Huntington’s patients, which accelerate the disease’s progression.

So, in its study, the team discovered that by blocking HDAC3 with an experimental compound in a pre-clinical model of Huntington’s disease, it slowed cognitive decline and delayed the onset of molecular signs of neurodegeneration.

Speaking of the findings, Lahue said: “While these results are preliminary, the data shows that the onset of Huntington’s disease is delayed when HDAC3 is blocked in this pre-clinical setting. This is an encouraging first step because currently there are no effective treatments that target the root cause of the disease.”

Along with his Spanish counterpart Dr Silvia Ginés, Lahue has now applied for additional funding to develop the treatment further and to assess additional safety aspects.

Huntington’s diagnosis for less than $50

The news follows a breakthrough in November of last year in the US, which claimed to have identified ‘several’ new biological markers in Huntington’s disease, potentially allowing doctors to measure the progression of the condition.

Only recently, a team of university students competing in the Microsoft Imagine Cup finals said they discovered a method of diagnosing Huntington’s and other neurological disorders for less than $50, according to RareDR.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the researchers said that that the eventual goal is to “offload the work from the specialist to the primary care level, so that people can get access to treatment faster and have a better quality of life”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic