A potential new treatment strategy for patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is on the horizon, thanks to research by neuroscientists now at the University at Buffalo’s (UB’s) Hunter James Kelly Research Institute and their colleagues in Italy and England. The institute is the research arm of the Hunter's Hope Foundation, established in 1997 by Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback, and his wife, Jill, after their infant son Hunter was diagnosed with Krabbe leukodystrophy, an inherited fatal disorder of the nervous system. Hunter died in 2005 at the age of eight. The institute conducts research on myelin and its related diseases with the goal of developing new ways of understanding and treating conditions such as Krabbe disease and other leukodystrophies. Charcot-Marie-Tooth or CMT disease, which affects the peripheral nerves, is among the most common of hereditary neurological disorders; it is a disease of myelin and it results from misfolded proteins in cells that produce myelin. The new findings were published online on April 1, 2013 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. They may have relevance for other diseases that result from misfolded proteins, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, cancer, and mad cow disease. The paper shows that missteps in translational homeostasis, the process of regulating new protein production so that cells maintain a precise balance between lipids and proteins, may be how some genetic mutations in CMT cause neuropathy. CMT neuropathies are common, hereditary, and progressive; in severe cases, patients end up in wheelchairs. These diseases significantly affect quality of life but not longevity, taking a major toll on patients, families, and society, the researchers note.
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