In Huntington's disease, the mutant protein known as huntingtin leads to the degeneration of a part of the brain known as the basal ganglia, causing the motor disturbances that represent one of the most defining features of the fatal disease. But a new study reported in the April issue of Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, shows that the mutant protein also is responsible for metabolic imbalances in the hypothalamus, a brain region that plays an important role in appetite control.
"This helps to explain metabolic changes and increases in appetite that have been observed in people at the early stages of disease," even before any motor symptoms appear, said Åsa Petersén of Lund University in Sweden. "It should encourage us to do more clinical studies. If we really understand the pathways that are affected, it may lead to new targets for intervention."