DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE

Research on Huntington Disease

Although Huntington disease (HD) attracted considerable attention from scientists in the early 20th century, there was little sustained research on the disease until the late 1960s when the Committee to Combat Huntington Disease and the Huntington's Chorea Foundation, later called the Hereditary Disease Foundation, first began to fund research and to campaign for federal funding. In 1977, the U.S. Congress established the Commission for the Control of Huntington's Disease and Its Consequences, which made a series of important recommendations. Since then, Congress has provided support for research, largely through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Research into Huntington's disease includes the following:

Basic neurobiology. Now that the HD gene has been located, researchers are studying the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of the nervous system to define how it causes disease in the human body.

Clinical research. Neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other investigators are improving our understanding of patients' symptoms and progression of the disease while attempting to develop new treatments.

Imaging. Scientific investigations using specialized technologies are enabling scientists to visualize what the defective gene does to structures and chemicals in the brain.

Animal models. Laboratory animals are used to study features of HD.

Fetal tissue research. Investigators are implanting fetal tissue in rodents and nonhuman primates to understand and correct nerve cell degeneration.