The discovery that two proteins combine to cause the incurable Huntington’s disease may have paved the way for more targeted drug therapies.
According to US researchers, the Rhes protein, only found in cells associated with movement, attaches more strongly to the mutant huntingtin protein, which is found everywhere, than proteins in other cells.
Tests on sufferers and mice that have been induced with the disease show that within 48 hours of this happening, the affected brain cells had died.
Professor Solomon Snyder at Johns Hopkins University said: “It’s always been a mystery why, if the protein made by the HD gene is seen in all cells of the body, only the brain, and only a particular part of the brain, the corpus striatum, deteriorates.”
He reports in Science magazine: “By finding the basic culprit, the potential is there to develop drugs that target it and either prevent symptoms or slow them down.”
Copyright Press Association 2009