Hope for Huntington's

Hope for Huntington's

A new assessment tool that can predict the clinical onset of Huntington’s disease is set to pave the way for more targeted treatment for sufferers.

The tool was developed by Edith Cowan University's Huntington's Disease Research Group.

Huntington's disease, for which there is no cure, is a genetic disorder that causes progressive deterioration of motor control, cognitive function and mental well-being, eventually leading to death.

While currently it can be diagnosed with a genetic test, it can be years or even decades before symptoms appear.

Predicting disease progression

ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences researcher Dr Travis Cruickshank said his team found that impairments in posture predicted the onset of Huntington’s symptoms.

The researchers detected the impairments using specially designed moving plates that measure balance.

"This is exciting because this assessment could help to facilitate an earlier diagnosis of clinical onset and enable early treatment and interventions for individuals with Huntington’s disease, which may slow disease progression," Dr Cruickshank said.

"We have previously shown that multidisciplinary therapy improves physical function, including balance, mobility, strength and manual dexterity for people with Huntington’s disease.

"This new assessment tool will give us the chance to further refine and improve how we deliver this program for even better results."

Dr Alvaro Reyes, from Universidad Tecnologica INACAP in Chile, who also contributed to the research, said the assessment tool could also prove valuable in assessing the effectiveness of new drug agents for Huntington's disease.

"This test could allow researchers to more accurately assess the effectiveness of new drug therapies for Huntington’s disease."

Individuals with the adult-onset form of Huntington’s disease usually live about 15 to 20 years after signs and symptoms begin.
Experts estimate that globally one in every 10,000 persons have Huntington's disease.
If a parent has Huntington’s Disease, 1 of 2 children will inherit it.
1-3% of people with Huntington’s disease have no family history of the disease.

A ticking time bomb

Physical education teacher Teagen Smith, who was informed she was positive for Huntington's disease gene in January 2015, said advance knowledge about progression would change her life.

"Huntington's disease feels like a ticking time bomb. Previously there was no way to know when you are going to become symptomatic," she said.

"To be able to predict when symptoms will occur means that we can be proactive and put strategies in place that will help in the long term."

'Computerised Dynamic Posturography in Premanifest and Manifest individuals with Huntington's Disease' was published in the journal, Scientific Reports.

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