Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fatal brain disease holds clues to dementia

28.04.2005


Scientists at Melbourne’s Howard Florey Institute have uncovered a clue about the causes of dementia in Huntington’s disease, one of the disease’s symptoms, by showing that mice susceptible to Huntington’s disease have problems with learning and memory before the diseases’ typical movement problems appear.



The Florey scientists also discovered that in Huntington’s diseased brains, information processing between neurons is disrupted, but the neurons do not die, which means the brain may respond to new anti-dementia drugs that can restore memory.

Huntington’s disease is an incurable, inherited disorder of the nervous system that affects specific brain regions and inevitably leads to death. Symptoms range from disrupted control of movements and thought processes, and emotional problems. These include: jerky arm or leg movements; difficulties with speech, swallowing, concentration, memory and learning; and depression and personality changes.


Huntington’s disease is caused by a mutation in a single gene. When this defective gene is passed from parent to child, 50 percent of the offspring will inherit the disorder, which can be detected by genetic testing.

Research leader Dr Anthony Hannan said his team’s investigations were significant as they could lead to the development of memory restoring drugs designed especially for people with Huntington’s disease.

"We have demonstrated the linkage from molecule to cell to learning and memory, and can relate this to a particular area of the brain," Dr Hannan said.

"Our work shows that the defective huntingtin gene disrupts how large groups of neurons ’talk’ to one another and adjust their wiring in response to stimulation from the environment."

"Now we can better understand how a genetic change affects wiring of neurons and relate that to changes in learning, memory and behaviour in Huntington’s disease."

"By better understanding the disease mechanism, we can work towards developing drugs to treat dementia in people with Huntington’s disease," he added.

Dr Hannan’s team trained normal and Huntington’s disease-susceptible mice to perform a complex touch-dependent learning task. The healthy mice could improve on their performance and learn the task, but the mice with Huntington’s disease could not, proving they had learning and memory problems.

In a second study, both mouse groups had most of their whiskers trimmed on one side. After the intact whiskers were stimulated, the touch and sensation brain region increased in area in the normal mice, but not the Huntington’s disease mice. This showed that the Huntington’s diseased brain had lost its ability to change wiring patterns and suggests that the neurons were unable to reorganise themselves and strengthen their nerve connections. Humans with Huntington’s disease also have problems with touch perception.

While more research is needed, Dr Hannan noted that Alzheimer’s disease patients may also have defective nerve connections in the brain similar to Huntington’s disease. If this is true, it might be possible to develop anti-dementia drugs that enhance information processing for both disorders.

Dr Anthony Hannan and his team collaborated with researchers from Oxford University and Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Poland on the project. Their findings were reported in the March 23 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The Howard Florey Institute is Australia’s leading brain research centre. Its scientists undertake clinical and applied research that can be developed into treatments to combat brain disorders, and into new medical practices. Their discoveries will improve the lives of those directly, and indirectly, affected by brain and mind disorders in Australia, and around the world. The Florey’s research areas cover a variety of brain and mind disorders including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, motor neuron disease, addiction, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, autism and dementia.

Merrin Rafferty | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hfi.unimelb.edu.au

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Millions through license revenues
27.04.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>