Magazine article Science News

Lab Tests Find Huntington's Protein May Have Crony in Killing Brain Cells: Results Could Explain Why Only Some Neurons Are Vulnerable

Magazine article Science News

Lab Tests Find Huntington's Protein May Have Crony in Killing Brain Cells: Results Could Explain Why Only Some Neurons Are Vulnerable

Article excerpt

Researchers may have discovered how a neuron-killing protein selects its victims--it has an accomplice.

Scientists identified a mutant form of the protein huntingtin as the culprit in Huntington's disease in 1993. The protein is found in every cell in the body, but it turns deadly only in brain cells--particularly cells in the striatum, a part of the brain that helps control movement. Why mutant huntingtin preferentially kills those cells has been a mystery.

Now, a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reports in the June 5 Science that a protein called Rhes may goad huntingtin into killing brain cells in the striatum, leading to Huntington's disease. If confirmed, the finding could provide new avenues for developing therapies to treat the fatal neurodegenerative disease, says Nancy Wexler, president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation and a researcher at Columbia University.

"This study really gave me a peek into what the future of the field might look like," says William Seeley of the University of California, San Francisco's Memory and Aging Center. Few studies before this one have explained why neurodegenerative diseases attack only certain parts of the brain. "What makes it so special for me is that it builds a bridge back to the anatomy of the disease," Seeley says.

Solomon Snyder, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins, and his team investigated Rhes, which is produced mostly in the striatum. The researchers found that Rhes interacts with huntingtin, and the association is even stronger with the disease-causing form of huntingtin. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.