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Will a cure help people who already have symptoms?

October 26, 2013

Huntington's Disease Youth Organization

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Will a cure help people who already have symptoms?

Q. If a cure is found for HD, is it possible that people currently suffering will get better? Or are the effects caused by HD permanent?

Jodie, 26, UK

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A. Dear Jodie,

Thanks for sending in the question. It’s a tricky one. I think if the problem is caught relatively early on, there’s a potential it could be reversed. However, if a person is later on in the illness I think it’s unlikely that this could be reversed. Another way of saying this is that if nerve cells are not functioning very well, then this might be helped by treatment. However, if the nerve cells have died then that’s more difficult to help.

There are some researchers (for instance at Cardiff University) who are looking at implanting new cells (stem cells) in the brain as a form of repair but we are still quite a long way from this. They are starting on HD mice first.

Best wishes

Hugh Rickards