The University College London (UCL) in the UK, has identified a new blood test to predict the onset, monitor the progression, and examine new treatments for Huntington’s disease (HD).
The test is designed to measure a protein called neurofilament light chain that is released from damaged brain cells.
The study was conducted by researchers at the UCL Huntington’s Disease Centre in collaboration with their colleagues in Sweden, the US, Canada, France, and the Netherlands.
The researchers measured neurofilament levels in blood samples from the international TRACK-HD trial, which involved a follow-up of 366 volunteers for three years.
The data indicated increased neurofilament levels throughout the disease course and was found to be consistent in the HD genetic mutation carriers, who had several years before the disease symptoms appeared.
The carriers showed neurofilament concentrations that were 2.6 times higher than that of the control subjects, and the brain protein levels increased throughout the course of the disease from premanifest to stage two.
The measure of neurofilament level allowed for independent prediction of onset and progression of HD in subjects who demonstrated no symptoms at the beginning of the study.
According to the researchers, as a single blood test reflects the changes in the brain, neurofilament can act as a speedometer in HD and has the potential to test if new treatments for the disease are working.
The performance of the test is yet to be validated and the scientists intend to currently use it as a tool for designing and conducting clinical studies of new drugs.
Image: A blood test to predict onset and track progression of Huntington’s disease. Photo: courtesy of National Eye Institute/Flickr.