Why Huntington’s is an Adult Disease
It’s been a mystery. Why is Huntington’s disease an adult disease? Why is it that the disease typically only shows up around middle age, and not during childhood? Researchers have been pondering the mystery for a while now, but a recent study at the University at Chicago College of Medicine might have some clues. The study showed that the gene that causes the disease, appropriately named the Huntington gene, switches on the cells that process the signals to the nervous system. What does this mean? It means that young, healthy people do not show signs of the disease, due to a strong immune system. Later in life, the disease shows itself due to slow cell death.
This isn’t too much of a surprise for researchers, since similar patterns can be seen with other neurodegenerative diseases. The basic underlying issue is a disruption of the axonal transport system. Over time the neurons begin to die due to their ability to transport and produce less and less protein.
The study was published in the online version of Nature Neuroscience, and is helping researchers to understand neurodegenerative diseases a bit better. Huntington’s disease causes issues with mental processing, involuntary body movements and in extreme cases, dementia. The disease is usually inherited and most often shows up between the ages of 35 and 44 years old.
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