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Huntington's disease dementia may hold clues for Alzheimer's

December 18, 2017
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Researchers are one step closer to understanding what causes the dementia in the neurodegenerative disorder Huntington’s disease, and their findings may speed the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, according to findings from a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

New Zealand researchers found high levels of carbamide, also called urea, in the brain tissue of sheep with the Huntington’s disease gene. The body’s inability to process urea causes a buildup of ammonia in the brain tissue, which leads to neurological impairment.

Toxic levels of urea also were found in post-mortem human samples that had only minimal cellular brain damage, suggesting the ammonia levels could serve as an early signal of neurodegeneration in living patients, researchers said. Since Huntington’s disease is linked to a defective gene, physicians could create treatment protocols to lower urea and ammonia or to enhance the body’s ability to metabolize them, researchers concluded.

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