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Huntington's Disease Youth Organization

How is HD caused?

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Q. what does huntingtons disease really do to your body, how is it caused, how is it cured.

Ashley, 18, USA

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A. Dear Ashley,

Thanks for the question. Those are some really big questions. HD is caused by genes. If you carry the HD gene, the cells in your body produce a protein called huntingtin, which is toxic to cells. Some cells in the body are more vulnerable to this toxic protein than others, particularly some brain cells. This is why people mostly have symptoms related to what the brain does.

At the moment there is no cure for HD. We can treat some of the symptoms, (which can include irritability, anxiety and movement problems) and we are testing the first treatments that could slow the illness down.

We are also testing treatments which will stop the HD gene from making the toxic protein. These treatments can be effective in small animals, like mice, who have HD but it’s quite a challenge to transfer that effect to humans with HD.

Best wishes

Hugh Rickards