Blood test to detect Huntington’s disease early

17 September 2018 (Last Updated November 22nd, 2018 11:29)

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) have devised a simple blood test that can identify early physiological changes caused by Huntington’s disease.

Blood test to detect Huntington’s disease early
The test looks for two early Huntington’s disease biomarkers in blood and brain fluid. Credit: Joshua/Yoon Hernandez.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) have devised a simple blood test that can identify early physiological changes caused by Huntington’s disease.

The researchers said that the test can detect such changes much earlier than brain scans.

“During the latest study in 40 people, the researchers designed a toolkit which can measure two early biomarkers of Huntington’s disease in blood and brain fluid.”

Recently, the team discovered that a blood test can predict the onset and monitor the progression of the disease in people who have the gene related to the brain disorder.

During the latest study in 40 people, the researchers designed a toolkit which can measure two early biomarkers of Huntington’s disease in blood and brain fluid.

The biomarkers, the neurofilament light (NfL) protein associated with nerve damage and the disease-causing mutant huntingtin (mHTT) protein, are intended for use in clinical trials in order to help in finding a disease-altering treatment for the disease.

National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) consultant neurologist Ed Wild said: “Many people who develop Huntington’s report subtle signs such as with mood or coordination, in what’s called the prodromal stage before any changes can be detected by brain scans.

“We’ve found that blood testing could help identify groups of people with very early neurodegeneration to help us run clinical trials of drugs to prevent symptoms.”

Wild added that the blood test can detect signs even before any evidence of neurodegeneration appears in brain scans. However, further research is needed to determine the test’s clinical potential.

UCL Institute of Neurology researcher Lauren Byrne said: “More research is needed to clarify the clinical potential of this test. We hope it can help to develop the first drugs to slow Huntington’s, and if they become available, then hopefully this test could help guide decisions on when to begin treatment.”