Category Archives: Huntington’s Disease

Alzheimer’s, worms, and paper airplanes

Jet Aeroplane Landing from Bright Twilight SkyAlzheimer’s Disease affects over 35 million people worldwide, and it’s expected that by 2050, over 115 million people will suffer from this disease. Understanding this disease is important- so what do worms and paper airplanes have to do with anything?

As you age, proteins in your brain build up and can prevent normal cell function. Neural damage due to protein build-up is seen in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease. But researchers have found a molecule that can enhance defense mechanisms against these toxic proteins. And recent studies have shown that it effectively clears these proteins out of worms (C. elegans) and extends their lifespan. 

It sounds far-fetched, but this little worm can actually give scientists a lot of valuable information. By using such simple organisms, researchers can understand more about the underlying mechanisms of dementia. It’s like making paper airplanes- the aerodynamic principles behind paper airplane flight are also relevant when it comes to the principles behind flying a Boeing 777. Think of these little worms as the paper airplanes, and the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient as the Boeing 777. Let’s hope that these worms give researchers the important information they need to help develop a successful therapy for Alzheimer’s!

Are there animals in YOUR medicine cabinet?

Dog and pills.How have animals helped YOU today? If you’re not familiar with research, you might not have any idea. But did you know that most of our medical advances wouldn’t have been possible without animals? It’s amazing to learn about the ways they’ve helped us!

Antibiotic ointment, aspirin, cold medicines, penicillin, anti-depressants, blood pressure and cholesterol medications, insulin, anti-coagulants, anesthesia, HIV drugs, chemotherapy, dialysis, CT scans, MRIs, prosthetics, organ transplants, and thousands of other medications and procedures were developed and determined to be safe for your use, thanks to dedicated researchers and the animals they work with.

The list goes on. I will guarantee that every person reading this has benefited from at least some of these advances. What’s more, I’ll bet your pets have benefited as well! And that’s a wonderful thing! Think of the symptoms we can alleviate due to medications, the life-threatening emergencies that we can SURVIVE, and the illnesses that our children may never get, thanks to vaccines. Polio, measles, cervical cancer, rabies, chicken pox, whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis B- and that’s just the beginning of the list!

EMBRACE it. Be thankful for it. The next time you reach into your medicine cabinet, take a minute to think about the scientific advances that led to the development of the medication that’s about to help you!

Huntington’s Disease answers from a mouse

iStock_000025371965XSmallThis is a great example of mice providing invaluable information into the understanding of a human disease! By looking at the activity in brain synapses of mice in the early stages of Huntington’s Disease, researchers at Lund University are able start to understand some of the symptoms that affect humans with Huntington’s even before physical symptoms occur.

Using real-time imaging, researchers were able to document the degradation of synapses in mice. Researchers wouldn’t have been able to gain this information from human patients very easily, as the diagnosis of Huntington’s often occurs after significant symptoms have been experienced, and looking at early-stage patients before they know they have the disease isn’t very realistic. By looking at mouse models of the disease and learning how synapses degrade in the very early stages of Huntington’s Disease, researchers can focus on new therapies directed at increasing the lifespan and function of these synapses in an attempt to attack the disease as early as possible.