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Huntington's disease: pathological mechanisms and therapeutic strategies.

Huntington's disease (HD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that occurs in patients with a mutation in the huntingtin or IT15 gene. Patients are plagued by early cognitive signs, motor deficits, and psychiatric disturbances. Symptoms are attributed to cell death in the striatum and disruption of cortical-striatal circuitry. Mechanisms of cell death are unclear, but processes involving mitochondrial abnormalities, excitotoxicity, and abnormal protein degradation have been implicated. Many factors likely contribute to neuron death and dysfunction, and this has made it difficult to systematically address the pathology in HD. Pharmaceutical therapies are commonly used in patients to treat disease symptoms. These have limited benefit and do not address the inexorable disease progression. Several neuroprotective therapies are being evaluated in animal models of HD as well as in clinical trials. Similarly, cell replacement strategies such as fetal transplantation have been used in the clinic with minimal success, making future cell replacement strategies such as stem cell therapy uncertain. This review describes the disease pathology in HD and addresses many of the past and emerging therapeutic strategies.

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