Gut bacteria in people with Huntington's disease may be a potential drug target

August 06, 2020

A world first clinical study of the gut microbiome in people with Huntington's disease (HD) has found that it is not just a disease of the brain, but also of the body.

The study, led by Monash University's Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, with collaboration from the Florey Institute for Neurosciences found evidence of gut dysbiosis (altered bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract) in people with HD, with some of the gut measures associated with disease symptoms, such as impaired movements and thinking.

The findings, published in Brain Communications, raise interesting questions regarding the role of the gut in Huntington's Disease, and its potential as a target for future therapeutic intervention, or for tracking disease progression.

The lead researchers, Neuropsychology Doctoral Candidate Cory Wasser and Professor Julie Stout, Director of Monash University's Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, used fecal samples to investigate whether the gut microbiome in people with HD differs to those without the HD gene.

The study included 42 participants with the HD gene, including 19 people with HD, 23 people with the HD gene but not yet showing HD symptoms, and 36 healthy participants who did not carry the gene mutation.

According to Professor Stout, "It is also possible that the changes in these trillions of gut bacteria - which outnumber the trillion or so human cells in each person's body - which are known to 'talk to the brain', could also affect symptoms of HD such as depression and dementia."

In people with HD, the researchers found major shifts at the level of bacterial families, altering the potential of the gut for sending signals to the brain and other organs.

These findings may also mean that changing gut bacteria may be a cause or precursor to some of the more debilitating symptoms associated with HD, according to the researchers.

"These results raise the tantalising proposition of whether the gut may be a potential target for future therapeutic intervention to improve outcomes in Huntington's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases," Professor Stout said.

Huntington's disease is a debilitating genetic neurological condition which gradually affects a person's movements, emotional and cognitive function. Each offspring of a parent with the HD gene has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting the genetic mutation causing the disease.

There is no cure and once symptoms appear, life expectancy reduces by 10-25 years, with latter stages of the disease severely impacting quality of life.

In people with HD, motor symptoms become debilitating, cognitive decline eventually progresses to dementia, and depression is estimated to be five to 10 times more common in HD than in the general population.

Read the full paper in Brain Communications titled: Gut dysbiosis in Huntington's disease: associations between gut microbiota, cognitive performance and clinical outcomes.

For Media Enquiries please contact:
T: +61 (0) 408 378 422

For more Monash media stories, visit our news and events site

Monash University

Related Neurodegenerative Diseases Articles from Brightsurf:

Bringing drugs to the brain with nanoparticles to treat neurodegenerative diseases
Researchers from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) have shown that nanoparticles could be used to deliver drugs to the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

First 'pathoconnectome' could point toward new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases
Scientists from the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah have achieved another first in the field of connectomics, which studies the synaptic connections between neurons.

Unlocking the mystery of tau for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases
A team of researchers from various collaborating universities and hospitals in Japan has uncovered crucial molecular details regarding the activity of the ''tau'' protein, promising to revolutionize the therapy of tau-induced neurodegenerative diseases.

Investigational drug stops toxic proteins tied to neurodegenerative diseases
An investigational drug that targets an instigator of the TDP-43 protein, a well-known hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), may reduce the protein's buildup and neurological decline associated with these disorders, suggests a pre-clinical study from researchers at Penn Medicine and Mayo Clinic.

Inhibition of sphingolipid metabolism and neurodegenerative diseases
Disrupting the production of a class of lipids known as sphingolipids in neurons improved symptoms of neurodegeneration and increased survival in a mouse model.

How understanding the dynamics of yeast prions can shed light on neurodegenerative diseases
How understanding the dynamics of yeast prions can shed light on neurodegenerative diseases

New family of molecules to join altered receptors in neurodegenerative diseases
An article published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry shows a new family of molecules with high affinity to join imidazoline receptors, which are altered in the brain of those patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's.

Examining diagnoses of stress-related disorders, risk of neurodegenerative diseases
Researchers investigated how stress-related disorders (such as posttraumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder and stress reactions) were associated with risk for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer and Parkinson disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), using data from national health registers in Sweden.

Toxic protein, linked to Alzheimer's and neurodegenerative diseases, exposed in new detail
The protein tau has long been implicated in Alzheimer's and a host of other debilitating brain diseases.

Study uncovers unexpected connection between gliomas, neurodegenerative diseases
New basic science and clinical research identifies TAU, the same protein studied in the development of Alzheimer's, as a biomarker for glioma development.

Read More: Neurodegenerative Diseases News and Neurodegenerative Diseases Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to