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Concept: Huntington's disease


A growing number of progressive heredodegenerative conditions mimic the presentation of Huntington’s disease (HD). Differentiating among these HD-like syndromes is necessary when a patient with a combination of movement disorders, cognitive decline, behavioural abnormalities and progressive disease course proves negative to the genetic testing for HD causative mutations, that is, IT15 gene trinucleotide-repeat expansion. The differential diagnosis of HD-like syndromes is complex and may lead to unnecessary and costly investigations. We propose here a guide to this differential diagnosis focusing on a limited number of clinical features (‘red flags’) that can be identified through accurate clinical examination, collection of historical data and a few routine ancillary investigations. These features include the ethnic background of the patient, the involvement of the facio-bucco-lingual and cervical district by the movement disorder, the co-occurrence of cerebellar features and seizures, the presence of peculiar gait patterns and eye movement abnormalities, and an atypical progression of illness. Additional help may derive from the cognitive-behavioural presentation of the patient, as well as by a restricted number of ancillary investigations, mainly MRI and routine blood tests. These red flags should be constantly updated as the phenotypic characterisation and identification of more reliable diagnostic markers for HD-like syndromes progress over the following years.

Concepts: Gene, Genetic disorder, Medical terms, Medical diagnosis, Huntington's disease, Presentation of Mary, Differential diagnosis, Huntingtin


Stem cell-based treatment for Huntington’s disease (HD) is an expanding field of research. Although various stem cells have been shown to be beneficial in vivo, no long standing clinical effect has been demonstrated. To address this issue, we are developing a stem cell-based therapy designed to improve the microenvironment of the diseased tissue via delivery of neurotrophic factors (NTFs). Previously, we established that bone marrow derived human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be differentiated using medium based cues into NTF-secreting cells (NTF+ cells) that express astrocytic markers. NTF+ cells were shown to alleviate neurodegeneration symptoms in several disease models in vitro and in vivo, including the model for excitotoxicity. In the present study, we explored if the timing of intrastriatal transplantation of hNTF+ cells into the R6/2 transgenic mouse model for HD influences motor function and survival. One hundred thousand cells were transplanted bilaterally into the striatum of immune-suppressed mice at 4.5, 5.5 and 6.5 weeks of age. Contrary to our expectations, early transplantation of NTF+ cells did not improve motor function or overall survival. However, late (6.5 weeks) transplantation resulted in a temporary improvement in motor function and an extension of life span relative to that observed for PBS treated mice. We conclude that late transplantation of NTF+ cells induces a beneficial effect in this transgenic model for HD. Since no transplanted NTF+ cells could be detected in vivo, we suspect that the temporary nature of the beneficial effect is due to poor survival of transplanted cells. In general, we submit that NTF+ cells should be further evaluated for the therapy of HD.

Concepts: Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Stem cells, Cellular differentiation, In vivo, Huntington's disease, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


The identities of toxic aggregate species in Huntington’s disease pathogenesis remain ambiguous. While polyQ-expanded huntingtin (Htt) is known to accumulate in compact inclusion bodies inside neurons, this is widely thought to be a protective coping response that sequesters misfolded conformations or aggregated states of the mutated protein. To define the spatial distributions of fluorescently-labeled Htt-exon1 species in the cell model PC12m, we employed highly sensitive single-molecule super-resolution fluorescence imaging. In addition to inclusion bodies and the diffuse pool of monomers and oligomers, fibrillar aggregates ~100 nm in diameter and up to ~1-2 µm in length were observed for pathogenic polyQ tracts (46 and 97 repeats) after targeted photo-bleaching of the inclusion bodies. These short structures bear a striking resemblance to fibers described in vitro. Definition of the diverse Htt structures in cells will provide an avenue to link the impact of therapeutic agents to aggregate populations and morphologies.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Aggregate, Oligomer, Huntington's disease, Huntingtin, Trinucleotide repeat disorder


Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by choreiform movement of the limbs, cognitive disability, psychosis and dementia. It is invariably associated with an abnormally long CAG expansion within the IT15 gene on human chromosome 4. Although the mutant huntingtin protein is ubiquitously expressed in HD patients, cellular degeneration occurs predominantly in neurons within the corpus striatum and cerebral cortex. The Ras homolog Rhes is expressed very selectively in the precise brain areas affected by HD. Recent in vitro work suggests that Rhes may be a co-factor with mutant huntingtin in cell death. The objective of the present study was to examine whether the inhibition of Rhes would attenuate or delay the symptoms of HD in vivo. We used a transgenic mouse model of HD crossed with Rhes knockout mice to show that the behavioral symptoms of HD are regulated by Rhes. HD(+)/Rhes(-/-) mice showed significantly delayed expression of HD-like symptoms in this in vivo model. Drugs that block or inhibit the actions of Rhes may be useful as the first treatments for HD.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Chromosome, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Huntington's disease, Huntingtin, Chromosome 4


Creatine is one of the most popular nutritional ergogenic aids for athletes. Studies have consistently shown that creatine supplementation increases intramuscular creatine concentrations which may help explain the observed improvements in high intensity exercise performance leading to greater training adaptations. In addition to athletic and exercise improvement, research has shown that creatine supplementation may enhance post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, thermoregulation, rehabilitation, and concussion and/or spinal cord neuroprotection. Additionally, a number of clinical applications of creatine supplementation have been studied involving neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease), diabetes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, aging, brain and heart ischemia, adolescent depression, and pregnancy. These studies provide a large body of evidence that creatine can not only improve exercise performance, but can play a role in preventing and/or reducing the severity of injury, enhancing rehabilitation from injuries, and helping athletes tolerate heavy training loads. Additionally, researchers have identified a number of potentially beneficial clinical uses of creatine supplementation. These studies show that short and long-term supplementation (up to 30 g/day for 5 years) is safe and well-tolerated in healthy individuals and in a number of patient populations ranging from infants to the elderly. Moreover, significant health benefits may be provided by ensuring habitual low dietary creatine ingestion (e.g., 3 g/day) throughout the lifespan. The purpose of this review is to provide an update to the current literature regarding the role and safety of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine and to update the position stand of International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

Concepts: Better, Improve, Nutrition, Obesity, Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, Huntington's disease, Creatine


Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a polyglutamine repeat in the Huntingtin gene (HTT). Although suppressing the expression of mutant HTT (mHTT) has been explored as a therapeutic strategy to treat Huntington’s disease, considerable efforts have gone into developing allele-specific suppression of mHTT expression, given that loss of Htt in mice can lead to embryonic lethality. It remains unknown whether depletion of HTT in the adult brain, regardless of its allele, could be a safe therapy. Here, we report that permanent suppression of endogenous mHTT expression in the striatum of mHTT-expressing mice (HD140Q-knockin mice) using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated inactivation effectively depleted HTT aggregates and attenuated early neuropathology. The reduction of mHTT expression in striatal neuronal cells in adult HD140Q-knockin mice did not affect viability, but alleviated motor deficits. Our studies suggest that non-allele-specific CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing could be used to efficiently and permanently eliminate polyglutamine expansion-mediated neuronal toxicity in the adult brain.

Concepts: Medicine, Neuron, Gene, Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, Striatum, Huntington's disease, Huntingtin


The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is an element of cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuitry critical for action suppression. In Huntington’s disease (HD) action suppression is impaired, resembling the effects of STN lesioning or inactivation. To explore this potential linkage, the STN was studied in BAC transgenic and Q175 knock-in mouse models of HD. At < 2 and 6 months of age autonomous STN activity was impaired due to activation of KATP channels. STN neurons exhibited prolonged NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic currents, caused by a deficit in glutamate uptake, and elevated mitochondrial oxidant stress, which was ameliorated by NMDA receptor antagonism. STN activity was rescued by NMDA receptor antagonism or breakdown of hydrogen peroxide. At 12 months of age approximately 30% of STN neurons were lost, as in HD. Together these data argue that dysfunction within the STN is an early feature of HD that may contribute to its expression and course.

Concepts: Nervous system, Oxygen, Reactive oxygen species, Chemical element, Hydrogen peroxide, NMDA receptor, Excitotoxicity, Huntington's disease


Synthetic zinc finger (ZF) proteins can be targeted to desired DNA sequences and are useful tools for gene therapy. We recently developed a ZF transcription repressor (ZF-KOX1) able to bind to expanded DNA CAG-repeats in the huntingtin (HTT) gene, which are found in Huntington’s disease (HD). This ZF acutely repressed mutant HTT expression in a mouse model of HD and delayed neurological symptoms (clasping) for up to 3 weeks. In the present work, we sought to develop a long-term single-injection gene therapy approach in the brain.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Transcription, Molecular biology, Virus, Huntington's disease


To compare population-based sterilization rates between Latinas/os and non-Latinas/os sterilized under California’s eugenics law.

Concepts: Birth control, United States, Huntington's disease, Sterilization, Compulsory sterilization, Eugenics, Buck v. Bell


The primary cause of Huntington’s disease (HD) is expression of huntingtin with a polyglutamine expansion. Despite an absence of consensus on the mechanism(s) of toxicity, diminishing the synthesis of mutant huntingtin will abate toxicity if delivered to the key affected cells. With antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that catalyze RNase H-mediated degradation of huntingtin mRNA, we demonstrate that transient infusion into the cerebrospinal fluid of symptomatic HD mouse models not only delays disease progression but mediates a sustained reversal of disease phenotype that persists longer than the huntingtin knockdown. Reduction of wild-type huntingtin, along with mutant huntingtin, produces the same sustained disease reversal. Similar ASO infusion into nonhuman primates is shown to effectively lower huntingtin in many brain regions targeted by HD pathology. Rather than requiring continuous treatment, our findings establish a therapeutic strategy for sustained HD disease reversal produced by transient ASO-mediated diminution of huntingtin synthesis.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetic disorder, RNA, Cerebrospinal fluid, Huntington's disease, Huntingtin, Polyglutamine tract