New Drugs Eyed for Huntington's Disease

WEDNESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) — Enzymes associated with Huntington’s disease may offer targets for the development of new drugs to treat the neurodegenerative disease, a new study suggests.

These enzymes, called matrix metalloproteinases(MMPs), play a role in the breakdown of proteins that modify the production of toxic fragments that contribute to Huntington’s disease, said researchers at the Buck Institute for Age Research in California.

Previous research has shown that MMPs respond to new cancer drugs currently under development.

“We’ve found a target that has known drugs for cancer treatment that could possibly have significance for HD,” Dr. Lisa Ellerby said in a Buck Institute news release. “MMPs are also involved in stroke, inflammation and many neurological processes; we expect a lot of scientific attention to now be focused on this important class of proteases.”

The study appears in the July 29 issue of Neuron.

Huntington’s disease is an incurable genetic disorder that affects movement and leads to mental decline, dementia and death. Symptoms usually appear in middle age. The worldwide prevalence of Huntington’s is five to 10 cases per 100,000 people, according to the news release.

“The next step in this research will be to test some of the MMP inhibitor drugs as a potential treatment in HD mouse models,” Ellerby said. “We’ll also be crossing mice that no longer have particular MMPs with those who have HD to see what effect that has on offspring.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about Huntington’s disease.