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ECU and Huntington's WA launch $330,000 research project

Friday, 20 May 2011


Edith Cowan University (ECU) researchers have launched a collaborative study into improving the quality of life of patients with Huntington's disease.

The world-first pilot program will investigate to what extent physical activity, occupational therapy and other lifestyle factors, when combined with traditional disease management strategies, improve the quality of life for patients with the disease.

ECU Associate Professor Melanie Ziman said that anecdotal evidence has long suggested that a combination of physical activity and neurological management will assist Huntington's patients in managing the disease.

"By working with patients to provide them with additional mental and physical stimulation, this hypothesis will be rigorously tested," Associate Professor Ziman said.

Huntington's disease is an inherited and progressive neurodegenerative disease.

The disease usually progresses slowly over a period of 10-25 years resulting in gradual physical, mental and emotional changes, ultimately leading to death, as there is no cure currently available.

Ann Jones, Chair of Huntington's WA, says that reducing the severity of some of the symptoms would make a huge difference to patients and their carers.

"Symptoms of the disease include impaired thought, memory, concentration, and planning processes, involuntary muscle movements and disturbed balance and walking ability, and we hope that this research project will go some way towards alleviating these symptoms", Mrs Jones said.

The pilot is being undertaken in conjunction with Huntington's WA and is made possible by funding provided by Lotterywest, through the community grant program.

The multidisciplinary research collaboration will bring together a range of professionals including neuroscientists, occupational therapists, exercise physiologists and health care professionals, together with the Association that advocates for people with Huntington's disease.

Collaborators include ECU, Huntington's WA, the Brightwater Group, the Neurosciences Unit (WA Health Department), the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair UK, and the Howard Florey Institute, Melbourne.

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