A group of researchers has identified a major new pathway thought to be involved in the development of Huntington disease.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, could eventually lead to new treatments for the disease, which currently has no cure.huntingdon-brain

Scientists at the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre and the MRC Toxicology Unit in Leicester, UK, working with the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics in Vancouver, Canada, studied mice and human tissue and found that the HACE1 gene is essential for mopping up toxic molecules during periods when harmful ‘reactive oxygen species’ build up in the cell.

Lead author Dr Barak Rotblat, of the MRC Toxicology Unit, said: “Our evidence points towards a previously unknown role of HACE1 in Huntington disease and possibly other forms of neurodegeneration. It’s very early days, but if we were able to find a way to boost this pathway, we might be able to develop a treatment that halts, or even reverses progression of Huntington disease.”

Dr Poul Sorensen, the senior author of the work from the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre and a Professor at the University of British Columbia, said:  “This is a glowing example of how work in one field, namely childhood cancers, where we first identified the HACE1 gene, has applications to a completely different disease, Huntington disease”.

The research was funded by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.