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Orphan drugs in development for Huntington's disease: challenges and progress

Authors Burgunder J

Received 25 September 2014

Accepted for publication 5 November 2014

Published 12 February 2015 Volume 2015:5 Pages 1—9


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Lise Aagaard

Jean-Marc Burgunder1–4

1Swiss Huntington’s Disease Centre, Department of Neurology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland; 2Department of Neurology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, 3Department of Neurology, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, 4Department of Neurology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China

Abstract: Huntington’s disease is a monogenic disorder encompassing a variable phenotype with progressive cognitive, psychiatric, and movement disorders. Knowledge of the mechanisms involved in this disorder has made substantial advances since the discovery of the gene mutation. The dynamic mutation is the expansion of a CAG (cytosine-adenine-guanine) repeat in the huntingtin (HTT) gene, which is transcribed into an abnormal protein with an elongated polyglutamine tract. Polyglutamine HTT accumulates and is changed in its function in multifaceted ways related to the numerous roles of the normal protein. The protein is expressed in numerous areas of the brain and also in other organs. The major brain region involved in the disease process is the striatum, but it is clear that other systems are involved as well. This accumulated knowledge has now led to the development of treatment strategies based on specific molecular pathways for symptomatic and disease course-modifying treatment. The most proximal way to handle the disturbed protein is to hinder the gene transcription, translation, and/or to increase protein clearance. Other mechanisms now being approached include modulation of energy and intracellular signaling, induction of factors potentially leading to neuroprotection, as well as modulation of glial function. Several clinical trials based on these approaches are now under way, and it is becoming clear that a future disease-modifying therapy will be a combination of several approaches harmonized with symptomatic treatments. In this review, some of the most promising and advanced strategies to develop novel treatments in Huntington's disease are examined.

Keywords: Huntington's disease, symptomatic treatment, disease-modifying therapy

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