JUN 08, 2017 03:29 PM PDT

Predicting Huntington's Disease From Blood

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Researchers from the University College London announced the first blood biomarker that can predict and track the progression of Huntington’s disease.

Image credit: pixabay.com

Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that is progressive and fatal. In patients with the disease, the huntingtin protein is misfolded and these proteins form clumps in the brain. In turn, these proteinaceous clumps turn into toxic clusters that interfere with the function of neurons and leading to the mental and physical decline in patients. Although there are no cures for Huntington’s yet, early diagnosis could provide patients with more time to seek treatments and manage their disease.

"This is the first time a potential blood biomarker has been identified to track Huntington's disease so strongly," said the study's senior author, Dr Edward Wild, professor at the University College London’s Institute of Neurology.

Whereas current tests for Huntington’s disease rely on neuroimaging and samples from cerebrospinal fluid, Wild’s assay is blood-based. The new method promises less invasive procedures for the patients, and reduced costs overall.

The blood-based test searches for the neurofilament light chain protein, the presence of which signals cellular brain damage. In an international effort that followed 366 participants over the course of three years, researchers found that levels of the neurofilament corresponded with Huntington disease progression. That is, the higher the level of neurofilament in the blood, the more likely patients were to develop or manifest symptoms of Huntington’s. Furthermore, the levels predicted those patients who would later receive the diagnosis even though these patients had no symptoms at the start of the study.

"We have been trying to identify blood biomarkers to help track the progression of HD for well over a decade, and this is the best candidate that we have seen so far," said Dr Wild. "Neurofilament has the potential to serve as a speedometer in Huntington's disease, since a single blood test reflects how quickly the brain is changing. That could be very helpful right now as we are testing a new generation of so-called 'gene silencing' drugs that we hope will put the brakes on the condition. Measuring neurofilament levels could help us figure out whether those brakes are working."

As promising as the results appear, the team cautions that more validation is necessary before the test moves to the clinic. "This is the first time neurofilament has been measured in blood, so much more work is needed to understand the potential and limitations of this test," said Lauren Byrne, the study's first author. "In the future, if drugs to slow HD become available, it may well be used to guide treatment decisions. For now, this test is most promising as a much-needed tool to help us design and run clinical trials of new drugs."

Additional sources: MNT

 

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
APR 24, 2018
Cancer
APR 24, 2018
Synthetic Retinoid Shows Promise for Inhibition of Cancer Cells
Researchers studied the potential use of a synthetic retinoid, WYC-209, as an inhibitor of cancer cell growth and metastasis via the retinoic acid receptor pathway....
MAY 28, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 28, 2018
Bacterial Toxin Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Scientists have found evidence that it's not a bacterium, but one of its toxins, that is connected to, and possibly causing intestinal dysfunction....
JUN 30, 2018
Immunology
JUN 30, 2018
CD4 T Cells Responsible for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
A specific subset of immune cells could be targeted to better treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A new University of Alabama at Birmingham study point...
JUL 19, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 19, 2018
Mom's Microbiome has a Big Impact on Kid's Autism Risk
For many years, scientists have been trying to learn more about the causes of autism....
SEP 03, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 03, 2018
Patients fewer symptoms after these words from doctors
A few encouraging words about recovery time from a health care provider after an allergic reaction significantly reduces symptoms, according to a new study...
OCT 16, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 16, 2018
Simple Test Rapidly Diagnoses Antibiotic-resistant Infections
If we get a bacterial infection, doctors use antibiotics to treat it. But sometimes people are infected by pathogens that are resistant to drugs....
Loading Comments...