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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Bile may treat Huntington's
Brain
Huntington's disease is caused by brain cell loss
Scientists have found that a component of human bile inhibits the death of cells associated with Huntington's disease (HD).

It is hoped the discovery could lead to a new treatment for the neurological disorder, which is caused by the denegation of cells in parts of the brain.

Tests on mice with Huntington's disease revealed that cell death could be prevented by giving them a dose of a non-toxic bile acid called tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA).

Mice with the HD gene were given an injection of the acid once every three days over a six week period.


This is just another little bit in the jigsaw

Sue Watkins
UK Huntington's Disease Association
The researchers found that cell death in the area of the brain affected by HD was reduced and symptoms of the disease were eased.

Lead researcher Professor Walter Low said: "We're extremely encouraged by the neuroprotective function of TUDCA in Huntington's disease and will be examining its potential in future studies."

Previous research carried out on rats at the university has found that TUDCA can also significantly reduce brain cell death in other conditions such as strokes.

Co-researcher Dr Clifford Steer said because the acid was produced naturally by the human body, it would cause virtually no side effects when given as a drug.

Other benefits

Dr Steer said: "TUDCA may even have potential for treating other chronic neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease)."

Sue Watkins, chair of the UK Huntington's Disease Association, told BBC News Online, the research was "quite exciting news".

"Apart form drugs that are able to help with the behavioural and psychological aspects that sometimes affect people with Huntington's very badly, there is virtually no treatment at all, she said.

"Anything that could prevent it happening, or stop it getting worse would be fantastic. But we have to remember that mice are not people, and this is just another little bit in the jigsaw."

The most common symptom of Huntington's disease is involuntary muscle contractions which become worse over time.

Psychiatric problems

Eventually, simple tasks such as holding a glass of water become a problem.

Other symptoms can include problems with speech and in children with the disease, epilepsy.

Psychiatric problems are also problem. These can include dementia, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia and personality disorders.

Bile is a complex fluid secreted by the liver which plays a crucial role in the digestion and absorption of fats and vitamins in the small intestine.

It also plays a key role in the elimination of waste products from the body.

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

See also:

12 Oct 00 | Health
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