Posture the key in the fight against Huntington’s

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  Last updated May 20, 2019 at 11:21 am

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A new assessment tool that can predict the clinical onset of Huntington’s disease is set to pave the way for more targeted treatment for sufferers.


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A tool developed by Edith Cowan University’s Huntington’s Disease Research Group, could possibly lead to an earlier diagnosis of clinical onset.


Huntington’s disease, for which there is no cure, is a genetic disorder that causes progressive deterioration of motor control, cognitive function and mental well-being, eventually leading to death.


While currently it can be diagnosed with a genetic test, it can be years or even decades before symptoms appear.


Predicting disease progression


Dr Travis Cruickshank from ECU, says his team found that impairments in posture predicted the onset of Huntington’s symptoms.


Impairments in postural stability are an early disabling feature of the neurodegenerative disease.


The researchers detected the impairments using specially designed moving plates that measure balance.


“This is exciting because this assessment could help to facilitate an earlier diagnosis of clinical onset and enable early treatment and interventions for individuals with Huntington’s disease, which may slow disease progression,” Cruickshank says.


“We have previously shown that multidisciplinary therapy improves physical function, including balance, mobility, strength and manual dexterity for people with Huntington’s disease.


“This new assessment tool will give us the chance to further refine and improve how we deliver this program for even better results.”


Dr Alvaro Reyes, from Universidad Tecnologica INACAP in Chile, who also contributed to the research, said the assessment tool could also prove valuable in assessing the effectiveness of new drug agents for the disease.


“This test could allow researchers to more accurately assess the effectiveness of new drug therapies for Huntington’s disease.”


‘It feels like a ticking time bomb’


Physical education teacher Teagen Smith, who was informed she was positive for the disease gene in January 2015, said advance knowledge about progression would change her life.


“Huntington’s disease feels like a ticking time bomb. Previously there was no way to know when you are going to become symptomatic,” she says.


“To be able to predict when symptoms will occur means that we can be proactive and put strategies in place that will help in the long term.”


Computerised Dynamic Posturography in Premanifest and Manifest individuals with Huntington’s Disease’ was published in the journal Scientific Reports.


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