Huntington’s disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder. There is still no cure for HD, however, which makes research into the condition enormously important.
Research project examples
HD is caused by a faulty gene on chromosome 4 which is passed down through families. If an individual has one parent with the HD gene, he or she has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene and developing HD themselves. The symptoms of the disease usually develop when people are between 30 and 50 years old and progress relentlessly over the next ten to twenty years.
HD causes damage to the nerve cells in the brain. As the damage progresses, the function of the affected areas of the brain deteriorates and symptoms develop. These symptoms affect every aspect of life: HD reduces people’s ability to walk, talk, think and communicate. Symptoms include uncontrolled movements, changes in mood and behaviour and altered thought processes. Eventually individuals with HD become unable to look after themselves and need full-time care.
The ION has a highly active HD research team, led by Professor Sarah Tabrizi. Their work covers a wide range of areas, encompassing both clinical research (which involves patients directly in studies using techniques like clinical examination, psychology testing, blood testing and MRI scanning) and basic science (laboratory-based research). The aim of their research is to find out more about HD, and, ultimately, to find a cure for this devastating disease.