Cynthia T. McMurray, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at the Mayo Clinic, led a research team which has shed new light on the way Huntington's disease develops and how it might eventually be treated or cured. The neurodegenerative disease is triggered by an extra segment of the huntingtin gene that expands and produces a destructive protein that afflicts the brain when it grows too large. The researchers determined that the segment grows when cells try to eliminate oxidative lesions. Working with engineered mice which were designed to develop Huntington's, the researchers found that the oxidative lesions multiplied as they aged, correlating to the growth of the gene segment. They then removed an enzyme involved in oxidative repair work and found that the disease either stopped progressing or developed at a much slower pace. McMurray believes that the enzyme is also responsible for spurring the growth of the gene segment responsible for Huntington's, offering the enzyme--OGG1--as the target for a new therapy for Huntington's. Oxidative lesions also play a role in the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
- here's the release on the discovery