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Cell hope for Huntington's disease

Wednesday June 8th, 2016

A novel form of cell transplant may form a successful cure for Huntington's disease, say researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The team, led by Professor Steven Goldman, examined the effectiveness of transplanting healthy glial cells to prolong life expectancy and alleviate symptoms in mice with Huntington's disease.

Glial cells in the in the central and peripheral nervous systems are not neurons, they play a role in maintaining homeostasis, build myelin sheaths for neurons, and provide other forms of support.

Firstly, the team transplanted glial cells infected with gene mutations of Huntington's disease into healthy mice, and observed that these mice developed symptoms of Huntington's in adulthood. This led the team to believe in a causal link between glial cells and the development of Huntington's disease.

Next, the team transplanted healthy human glial cells into the mice with Huntington's disease, which led to an improvement in the mice's motor and cognitive skills improved. Mice given this treatment also had a longer lifespan.

The team say these results may be of great importance to future treatment of neurological diseases. Details were published in Nature Communications yesterday (7 June).

"It's the first time, we've conducted this type of transplant and the results are both positive and surprising," said Professor Goldman. "It reveals that diseased mice injected with healthy glial cells live longer and their condition improves. This is very promising, and it's only the tip of the iceberg.

"We hope to be able to conduct further research on whether we may be able to improve function and delay progression with glial transplants."

Benraiss, A. et al. Human glia can both induce and rescue aspects of disease phenotype in Huntington disease. Nature Communications 7 June 2016; doi:10.1038/ncomms11758 [abstract]

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Europe | Transplant

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