What is Huntington’s Disease (HD)?

June 11, 2024

A team of scientists in the UK recently developed non-invasive measurement techniques and novel analysis methods to decode disease progression and evaluate the effect of potential treatments or lifestyle changes in people with Huntington's disease.

About Huntington’s Disease:

  • HD is an inherited disorder that causes nerve cells (neurons) in parts of the brain to gradually break down and die.
  • It has a wide impact on a person's functional abilities and usually results in movement, thinking (cognitive) and psychiatric disorders.
  • There are two types of HD:
    • Adult-onset is the most common. Persons with this form usually develop symptoms in their mid-30s or 40s.
    • Early-onset affects a small number of people and begins in childhood or in the teens.
  • Cause:
    • genetic change (mutation) in the HTT gene causes HD.
    • The HTT gene makes a protein called huntingtin. This protein helps your nerve cells (neurons) function.
    • The normal HTT gene contains a stretch of DNA that specifies the number of times the amino acid glutamine is repeated in the Htt protein. This number varies from 11 to 31.
    • In the mutant versions of the HTT gene, this stretch is expanded to encode 35 or more repeats. 
    • As the number of repetitions increases, the severity of Huntington’s disease increases and its debilitation begins at an earlier age.
  • HD is rare. The disease is passed down through families.
  • Symptoms:
    • HD usually causes movement, cognitive, and psychiatric disorders with a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms.
    • The patient suffers mood swings, has difficulty in reasoning, shows abnormal and uncontrollable jerky movements, and experiences difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and walking.
  • Treatment:
    • There is no cure for There is no known way to stop the disease from getting worse.
    • The goal of treatment is to slow the symptoms and help the person function for as long as possible.