Harmful Misfolded Huntingtin Protein Can Travel Between Brain Cells Via Messenger Particles Called Exosomes

[In an article published on June 6, 2016 in HDBuzz, Leora Fox, a Ph.D. candidate in neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center, reported on very recent research by others suggesting the possible role of exosomes in Huntington’s disease (HD). HDBuzz is an internet publication on HD research written by scientists in plain language for the global HD community. Ms. Fox’s article (http://en.hdbuzz.net/download/HDBuzz-218-en.pdf), was edited by Jeff Carroll, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Western Washington University and co-founder of HDBuzz. Dr. Carroll, who is a prominent HD researcher, has himself been diagnosed with HD. He is 38. The HDBuzz article is reproduced here, with permission.] HDBuzz Article: Clumps of mutant huntingtin protein in brain cells are a hallmark of HD, and they build up slowly, occupying more and more cells over time. Recent research in mice shows that the harmful proteins can travel between neurons, setting off a chain reaction that leads to more sick cells and the development of symptoms. A person diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, will develop symptoms progressively, meaning that they begin gradually and worsen over time. The progressive nature of Huntington’s is reflected within the brain, where cells controlling mood and movement become vulnerable to damage, then decrease in numbers over the course of many years. At the same time, neurons all over the brain slowly become littered with clumps of biological trash. These harmful clumps, often called “aggregates,” contain abnormal huntingtin protein along with other sticky gunk.
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