By: Hannah Devlin Science correspondent | This may be a turning point in treating neurodegenerative diseases | Neuroscience | The Guardian
Success in trials for Huntington’s and Spinal Muscular Atrophy raises hopes that diseases such as Alzheimer’s and ALS could be tackled using a new class of drugs
They are diseases that threaten more than physical health: memories, personality, and the ability to move and speak are incrementally stolen. And until this year neurodegenerative diseases, from Alzheimer’s to ALS, had been entirely unstoppable.
However, a breakthrough in Huntington’s disease this week suggests this bleak picture could be about to change. The landmark trial was the first to show that the genetic defect that causes Huntington’s could be corrected, raising hopes that the drug will become the first to slow the progress of the disease – or even stop it.
Huntington’s disease is a congenital degenerative condition caused by a single defective gene. Most patients are diagnosed in middle age, with symptoms including mood swings, irritability and depression. As the disease progresses, more serious symptoms can include involuntary jerky movements, cognitive difficulties and issues with speech and swallowing.