Huntington Disease Breakthrough

Recent research and experimentation by The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) could spell good news for those suffering from Huntington disease. For those of you unsure of what Huntington’s disease is, Medicinenet defines it as an inherited disease that causes certain nerve cells in the brain to waste way. This causes mental and physical disabilities to occur as the disease worsens. There is no cure but some medicines can help in managing the diseases symptoms, until perhaps now.

A clinical trial at MGH tested the effects of high-doses of creatine on participants who are all at genetic risk for the disorder. Utilizing neuroimaging, the study found that the nutritional supplement was not only safe for all participants but showed that the substance may in fact slow down the progression of the disease itself. Although the results were great, the study used an interesting method. Among the participants, who were all at genetic risk, many of them decided to refuse to learn whether or not they carried the mutation that causes the disease. However this is not an uncommon trait among those individuals at risk. As H, Diana Rosas, MD of the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease wrote, “More than 90 percent of those in the United States who know they are at risk for HD because of their family history have abstained from genetic testing, often because they fear discrimination or don’t want to face the stress and anxiety of knowing they are destined to develop such a devastating disease,”

Nevertheless, the clinical study enrolled 64 adult participants and asked a portion of the group to take creatine for the first 6 months of the study. The other portion was given a placebo effect and after the first 6 months all participants were given creatine. However, many dropped out due to various factors such as taste, or gastrointestinal discomfort. Of those who consistently used the drug, the dosage seemed effective and reduced the progression of atrophy. senior author Steven Hersch, MD, PhD, of MGH-MIND said, “The results of this trial suggest that the prevention or delay of HD symptoms is feasible, that at-risk individuals can participate in clinical trials — even if they do not want to learn their genetic status — and that useful biomarkers can be developed to help assess therapeutic benefits,”

While the clinical trial was simply the first of many, the news looks great for those currently suffering from Huntington’s disease or those who may be at genetic risk.



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