Brain degeneration in Huntington’s disease caused by amino acid deficiency


Lyra Nara Blog

Working with genetically engineered mice, Johns Hopkins neuroscientists report they have identified what they believe is the cause of the vast disintegration of a part of the brain called the corpus striatum in rodents and people with Huntington’s disease: loss of the ability to make the amino acid cysteine. They also found that disease progression slowed in mice that were fed a diet rich in cysteine, which is found in foods such as wheat germ and whey protein.

Their results suggest further investigation into cysteine supplementation as a candidate therapeutic in people with the disease.

Up to 90 percent of the human corpus striatum, a brain structure that moderates mood, movement and cognition, degenerates in people with Huntington’s disease, a condition marked by widespread motor and intellectual disability. And while the genetic mutation underlying Huntington’s disease has long been known, the precise cause of that degeneration has remained a mystery.

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