Scientists have identified a new biomarker in the brains of mice that may one day be used to flag Huntington's disease long before major symptoms emerge.
The findings, published in the neurology journal Brain, indicate specific electrical activity patterns in the brain appear to be linked with the disease and can be detected through brain scans.
Scientists with the research organization SRI International said the finding is important because people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's often suffer significant brain damage by the time symptoms appear, making it difficult to slow and treat.
But the newly identified biomarker could pave the way for early diagnosis and speed treatments to suffers before they even have symptoms.
Using a technique known as electroencephalography (EEG), the researchers were able to measure changes in electrical activity of the brains of mice with Huntington's disease — changes they said could flag the presence of a neurodegenerative disease.
"Our breakthrough is that we have found an EEG signature that appears to be a biomarker for the presence of disease in [mice with] Huntington's disease that can identify early changes in the brain prior to the onset of behavioral symptoms," said lead researcher Stephen Morairty, a director in the Center for Neuroscience in SRI Biosciences.
"While the current study focused on Huntington's disease, many neurodegenerative diseases produce changes in the EEG that are associated with the degenerative process. This is the first step in being able to use the EEG to predict both the presence and progression of neurodegenerative diseases."
Huntington's disease is an inherited disorder that causes certain nerve cells in the brain to die, resulting in motor dysfunction, cognitive decline, and psychiatric symptoms.
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