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Study Description

Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder typically diagnosed in mid-life that is caused by expansion of an otherwise polymorphic CAG trinucleotide repeat. The mutation causes a gain-of-function of the huntingtin protein to trigger a pathogenic process that produces detectable phenotypic differences many years before the traditional diagnosis, which is based upon characteristic motor symptoms. The prediagnosis phase of pathogenesis is now the subject of intense scrutiny by an NINDS-funded longitudinal study, PREDICT-HD, in which undiagnosed gene carriers are followed longitudinally and subjected to detailed phenotyping (PREDICT-HD Huntington Disease Study -- dbGaP Study Accession: phs000222). This powerful approach, which offers the potential for moving the focus of therapeutic development to the decades prior to neurological disease diagnosis, is enabled by the fact that all individuals with HD have the same type of mutation, which can be determined at any time in life by a single HD CAG repeat PCR amplification assay. The precise length of the HD CAG repeat differs between individuals. There is a strong negative correlation between the number of CAG repeats and the age at onset of diagnostic neurological abnormalities in HD, such that the CAG repeat accounts for ~50% of the variation in age at diagnosis. Analysis of the remaining variance not explained by the length of the CAG repeat has shown that it is highly heritable, being due to genetic variation, elsewhere in the genome.

The intent of the Genetic Modifiers of Huntington's Disease study is to identify genetic modifiers of HD pathogenesis by using genomewide association techniques in diagnosed HD individuals to identify genetic factors associated with the residual variance in age at onset not explained by the CAG repeat, and to extend these analyses to pre-diagnosis phenotypes, for example, those defined in the PREDICT-HD study. Identification of modifier genes is a top priority for HD research (and an example of an approach that can be applied in other late-onset genetic disorders), as it could provide clues to developing rational treatments that delay or prevent the pathogenic process from causing the ravages of the disease that ensue in the ~15 years of inexorable decline to ultimate death that now follows clinical diagnosis.

  • Study Type: Cohort
  • Number of study subjects that have individual level data available through Authorized Access: 2802

Authorized Access
Publicly Available Data (Public ftp)

Connect to the public download site. The site contains release notes and manifests. If available, the site also contains data dictionaries, variable summaries, documents, and truncated analyses.

Study Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

The study population includes individuals diagnosed with HD and participants in the PREDICT-HD Huntington Disease Study (dbGaP Study Accession: phs000222).

Molecular Data
TypeSourcePlatformNumber of Oligos/SNPsSNP Batch IdComment
Whole Genome Genotyping Illumina HumanOmni2.5 2443179 N/A
Selected publications
Diseases/Traits Related to Study (MESH terms)
Study Attribution