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ILAR J. 2007;48(4):356-73.

Animal models of Huntington's disease.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Rush University Medical Center, 1735 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurological disorder caused by a genetic mutation in the IT15 gene. Progressive cell death in the striatum and cortex, and accompanying declines in cognitive, motor, and psychiatric functions, are characteristic of the disease. Animal models of HD have provided insight into disease pathology and the outcomes of therapeutic strategies. Earlier studies of HD most often used toxin-induced models to study mitochondrial impairment and excitotoxicity-induced cell death, which are both mechanisms of degeneration seen in the HD brain. These models, based on 3-nitropropionic acid and quinolinic acid, respectively, are still often used in HD studies. The discovery in 1993 of the huntingtin mutation led to the creation of newer models that incorporate a similar genetic defect. These models, which include transgenic and knock-in rodents, are more representative of the HD progression and pathology. An even more recent model that uses a viral vector to encode the gene mutation in specific areas of the brain may be useful in nonhuman primates, as it is difficult to produce genetic models in these species. This article examines the aforementioned models and describes their use in HD research, including aspects of the creation, delivery, pathology, and tested therapies for each model.

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