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Neurosurg Focus. 2008;24(3-4):E9. doi: 10.3171/FOC/2008/24/3-4/E8.

Cell therapy in Huntington disease.

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Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 2PY, United Kingdom.


Huntington disease (HD), caused by polyglutamate expansions in the huntingtin protein, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease resulting in cognitive and motor impairments and death. Neuronal dysfunction and degeneration contribute to progressive physiological, motor, cognitive, and emotional disturbances characteristic of HD. A major impetus for research into the treatment of HD has centered on cell therapy strategies to protect vulnerable neuronal cell populations or to replace dysfunctional or dying cells. The work underlying 3 approaches to HD cell therapy includes the potential for self-repair through the manipulation of endogenous stem cells and/or neurogenesis, the use of fetal or stem cell transplantation as a cell replacement strategy, and the administration of neurotrophic factors to protect susceptible neuronal populations. These approaches have shown some promising results in animal models of HD. Although striatal transplantation of fetal-derived cells has undergone clinical assessment since the 1990s, many cell therapy strategies have yet to be applied in the clinic environment. A more thorough understanding of the pathophysiologies underlying HD as well as the response of both endogenous and exogenous cells to the degenerating brain will inform their merit as potential therapeutic agents and enhance the framework by which the success of such strategies are determined.

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