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Exp Neurol. 2008 Apr;210(2):691-8. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2007.12.026. Epub 2008 Jan 19.

The metabolic profile of early Huntington's disease--a combined human and transgenic mouse study.

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Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, E.D. Adrian Building, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 2PY, UK.


Huntington's disease (HD) is a debilitating autosomal dominant, neurodegenerative disease with a fatal prognosis. Classical symptoms include motor disturbances, subcortical dementia and psychiatric symptoms but are not restricted to this triad. Patients often experience other problems such as weight loss, although why and when this occurs in the disease course is not known. We studied metabolism using whole body indirect calorimetry in both early stage HD patients and in the R6/2 transgenic mouse model of HD, at times before and after they displayed signs of disease. Using this combined approach we found that patients with early HD tended to be in negative energy balance for reasons not related to their movement disorder, which was paralleled in the transgenic R6/2 mice. These mice had significantly elevated total energy expenditure as they developed overt disease with weight loss due primarily to a loss of muscle bulk. This study has shown for the first time that in HD there is the development of early negative energy balance, which in turn may cause weight loss with loss of muscle bulk in particular. The reason for this is not known but may reflect a catabolic state secondary to hypothalamic pathology, as abnormalities have been reported in the hypothalamus early in the disease course.

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