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Neuroreport. 2012 Jan 4;23(1):10-5. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32834d92e6.

Reagents that block neuronal death from Huntington's disease also curb oxidative stress.

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Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.


Patients with Huntington's disease suffer severe neuronal loss and signs of oxidative damage in the brain. Previously we found that primary neurons from embryonic cortex of mice bearing the Huntington's disease mutation (140 glutamines inserted into exon 1 of huntingtin) showed higher levels of reactive oxygen species before cell death. Here, we treated mutant neurons with known neuroprotective agents and determined the effects on neuronal survival and levels of reactive oxygen species. Primary neurons were exposed to the neurotrophin, brain derived neurotrophic factor, the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine or a specific inhibitor of glycogen synthase kinase 3-β, SB216763. Each reagent increased the survival of the mutant neurons compared with untreated mutant neurons and also reduced the levels of reactive oxygen species to levels of wild-type neurons. These results suggest that reducing the levels of reactive oxygen species may be necessary to protect neurons with the Huntington's disease mutation from cell death.

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