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UCLA researcher finds link between Huntington’s disease, altered protein

By Sylvia Lutze

Feb. 20, 2015 3:25 a.m.

UCLA researchers may have identified a specific protein linked to the cause of Huntington’s disease, a genetic disorder that causes the breakdown of nerve cells and impairs a person’s movement and cognitive abilities.

The exact mechanism that causes Huntington’s is still unknown, but researchers hope that targeting a protein called huntingtin and its functions could help prevent or slow the progression of the disease over time. UCLA researcher X. William Yang led a study analyzing the effects of the huntingtin and published the study results earlier this month.

Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids, and the first 17 amino acids of the huntingtin protein may be related to the onset of Huntington’s. In a UCLA study, researchers removed this string of amino acids from the protein for about a 100 mice and compared results with a separate control group of mice.

The mice with altered proteins showed many of the same symptoms as people with Huntington’s disease, including reduced coordination, inflammation in the brain and weight loss. Based on the similar symptoms, UCLA researchers said they may have found a specific correlation between the protein and Huntington’s disease.

Compiled by Sylvia Lutze, Bruin contributor.

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