Hunting for a cure

Hunting for a cure

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that causes uncontrolled movement of the body, as well as a decline in perception, thinking and reasoning skills.

It affects around 12 in every 100,000 people and is caused by the modification of a single gene – the mutation has a 50 per cent chance of being inherited by offspring, but symptoms only usually develop between ages 25 and 50, becoming increasingly severe over time.

There is currently no cure for Huntington’s disease, with all treatment being focused on the mitigation of symptoms.

Until recently, scientists understood very little about HD and could only watch as the disease continued to pass from generation to generation. Now, scientists like UEA’s Dr. Peter McCormick have begun to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the disease, sparking optimism about more effective treatments being developed in the future.

Dr. McCormick, based in UEA’s School of Pharmacy, has highlighted that ‘many big pharma companies shy away from rare neurological disorders due to their complexity and low patient number’. However, his focused research has led to the discovery of a novel drug target that can potentially treat Huntington’s disease at a more fundamental level.

By using this approach, Dr. McCormick’s group, in collaboration with the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona, have been able to reduce neuronal death and revert the cognitive deficits caused by HD in an animal model of the disease. 

Dr. McCormick is currently working with the pharmaceutical industry to bring his exciting work into a clinical setting: ‘although we are only at the beginning of this story, we have made an important first step towards a potential new therapy that attempts to treat the disease itself and not just the symptoms’.

The Expert

Dr Peter McCormick

LECTURER IN CELL BIOLOGY
SCHOOL OF PHARMACY

My research involves the identification and characterization of G-protein coupled receptor dimers as novel drug targets in a variety of pathologies.