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Test reveals effectiveness of potential Huntington's disease drugs

DALLAS Oct. 30, 2006 -- A test using cultured cells provides an effective way to screen drugs against Huntington's disease and shows that two compounds memantine and riluzole are most effective at keeping cells alive under conditions that mimic the disorder, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report.

"These drugs have been tested in a variety of Huntington's disease models and some HD human trials and results are very difficult to interpret," said Dr. Ilya Bezprozvanny, associate professor of physiology and senior author of the study, available online and published in today's issue of Neuroscience Letters. "For some of these drugs conflicting results were obtained by different research groups, but it is impossible to figure out where the differences came from because studies were not conducted in parallel.

"We systematically and quantititatively tested the clinically relevant drugs side-by-side in the same HD model. That has never been done before," said Dr. Bezprozvanny.

Huntington's disease is a fatal genetic disorder, manifesting in adulthood, in which certain brain cells die. The disease results in uncontrolled movements, emotional disturbance and loss of mental ability. The offspring of a person with Huntington's have a 50 percent chance of inheriting it.

More than 250,000 people in the United States have the disorder or are at risk for it. There is no cure, but several drugs are used or are being tested to relieve symptoms or slow Huntington's progression.

The disease affects a part of the brain called the striatum, which is involved in the control of movement and of "executive function," or planning and abstract thinking. It primarily attacks nerve cells called striatal medium spiny neurons, the main component of the striatum.

Dr. Bezprozvanny's group previously demonstrated that Huntington's striatal neurons are oversensitive to glutamate, a compound that nerve cells use to communicat
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Contact: Aline McKenzie
aline.mckenzie@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
30-Oct-2006


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