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Hypothalamic and Neuroendocrine Changes in Huntington's Disease

Hult S, Schultz K, Soylu R and Petersén Å.

Translational Neuroendocrine Research Unit, Department of Experimental Medical Sciences, Lund University, Sweden.

Current Drug Targets 11: 1237-1249 (2010)


Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal hereditary neurodegenerative disorder without satisfactory treatments nor a cure. It is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the huntingtin gene. The clinical symptoms involve motor-, cognitive- and psychiatric disturbances. Recent studies have shown that non-motor symptoms and signs, such as mood changes, sleep disturbances and metabolic alterations often occur before the onset of overt motor impairments. The hypothalamus is one of the main regulators of emotion, sleep and metabolism, and it is therefore possible that dysfunction of the hypothalamus and neuroendocrine circuits may, at least partly, be responsible for these non-motor symptoms in HD. Several hypothalamic and neuroendocrine changes have now been identified in clinical HD as well as in rodent models of the disease. These changes could be important both in the pathogenesis of HD, constitute biomarkers to track disease progression as well as to provide novel therapeutic targets for this devastating disease. The current state of knowledge in the area of hypothalamic and neuroendocrine changes in both patients and rodent models of HD is summarized in this review, and their potential as targets for novel treatment paradigms are discussed.