Huntington’s Disease on the Mind

On the Mind” is a series that aims to demystify biological disorders and give a platform to patients; at last week’s event at New York’s Caveat, the focus was on Huntington’s disease (HD), a slowly progressive, hereditary neurodegenerative disorder that causes cognitive, psychiatric, and motor problems. The evening’s program had three parts: the scientific story of HD, dance performances inspired by HD, and the personal story of Justin Goldberg, whose father has HD and who is himself at risk for the disease.

Approximately 30,000 people in the US are living with HD and another 200,000 are at risk, with diagnosis usually occurring when a person reaches his or her early 40s and begins to exhibit motor symptoms, said Leora Fox, Ph.D., manager of mission and research programs at the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. Presently, there are no treatments that can slow or stop Huntington’s disease.

Leora Fox discusses brain cell loss in people with HD

Everyone has two copies of the huntingtin gene (one from each parent), she explained, and the existing hypothesis is that the disease is caused by a mutation on the gene that gives instructions to produce a toxic huntingtin protein (“DNA makes RNA makes protein”), which eventually leads to death of brain cells. The logical solution therefore seems to be: “Lower the amount of huntingtin in the brain,” she said.

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Huntington’s Disease on NY1

Earlier this week, geneticist and Dana Alliance member Nancy Wexler, Ph.D., was featured in a segment on New York City’s local news channel, NY1. As Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology at Columbia University and president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, Wexler is a pioneer in the race to find a cure for Huntington’s disease (HD).

The fatal, genetic disease causes a painful deterioration of physical and mental abilities, due to the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, “HD is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faculty gene.”

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Dana News E-Blast: February

Here are some stories recently posted on

Cerebrum-February 2016-Lithium-Article ContentLithium to the Rescue

by Richard S. Jope, Ph.D., and Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D.

New research reveals lithium’s role as a neuroprotector and suggests that enzymes modulated by lithium could lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and other neurodegenerative disorders. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

New Clues to the Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Cell and animal models point to abnormalities in two brain areas. Continue reading

“TIME 100” Recognizes Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D.

Last week, Time Magazine published its annual list of the world’s most influential pioneers. We are pleased to announce that Dana Alliance member, Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D., has been deemed a “TIME 100” honoree for his leading research on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Tanzi currently serves as Chair of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium, Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as head of the Alzheimer’s Genome Project.

From left, Rudy Tanzi, with Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health, in a photo from the Rockstars of Science series that first ran in GQ magazine in 2009.(Geoffrey Beene Gives Back/GQ)

From left, Rudy Tanzi, with Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health, in a photo from the Rockstars of Science series that first ran in GQ magazine in 2009.(Geoffrey Beene Gives Back/GQ)

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Can We Undo the Course of Neurodegenerative Disease?

Columbia professor Rene Hen, Ph.D., called his former student Ai Yamamoto, Ph.D. , “one of the new young stars of Columbia University.” In describing her research into neurodegenerative disease, he cited “remarkable discoveries that have generated enormous hope.”

Following her mentor at Wednesday’s event, hosted by the University’s Mind Brain Behavior Institute and sponsored by the Dana Foundation, Dr. Yamamoto expressed gratitude for these generous words, but also trepidation. “You know those movie trailers that are really good, and then you go and see the movie and are disappointed? There’s a bit of pressure here…”

Yamamoto had little to worry about. The fascinating developments she recounted suggested the possibility not only of arresting the onslaught of diseases like Huntington’s disease (HD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but of undoing the damage done.

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