DURHAM, N.C., July 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Huntington's disease, or HD, an inherited brain disorder that affects roughly 30,000 people in the U.S., could hold the key to finding treatments or even a cure for Alzheimer's and other major neurological disorders that affect millions of people.
What sets HD apart from other central nervous system disorders and makes HD research critical is that everyone who carries the abnormal gene will get the disease.
"HD really is the paradigmatic neurodegenerative disease because a single gene leads to degeneration of certain parts of the central nervous system of the brain," says Dr. Donald C. Lo, Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center.
"So most researchers and the pharmaceutical industry feel if you could cure Huntington's disease, you would gain tremendous insight into treating many of these other neurodegenerative disorders," such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, he says.
Unprecedented levels of philanthropic funding and research are focused on HD, says Lo, who directs the Duke Center for Drug Discovery.
HD research will be the focus of the 7th Annual Huntington Study Group Clinical Research Symposium, which will be held November 7-9 in Charlotte.
The event is jointly sponsored by Charlotte AHEC and the Huntington Study Group, an international network of clinical researchers who study and care for patients and families with Huntington's disease.
"It puts a real spotlight on a disease that affects many people in the state of North Carolina, a state that has not had a strong statewide infrastructure for taking care of HD patients and patient families," Lo says.
But that is changing, thanks to HD Reach, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that is pioneering efforts to make sure patients and families have access to care and resources.
"Historically, HD patients have been best taken care of in major urban areas where there are major medical centers that have specialized clinics for HD," says Lo, who serves as vice president of HD Reach. "In more rural states like North Carolina, the urban model doesn't work because much of the population doesn't live in urban areas."
The goal at HD Reach, he says, is to "create a different kind of care network for HD patients and families."
While advances in medical research and technologies will be a big focus of the Symposium, it also will look at issues of local social and medical care that affect the caregivers who treat HD patients and families.
The work of HD Reach and similar efforts in other states to find ways "to bring quality care to patients in non-urban areas," Lo says, is a major concern for the Huntington Study Group.
Robert B Butler | PR | NCPressRelease
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SOURCE Mary C. Edmondson, MD - Duke University Medical Center - President, HD Reach