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Early warning signs of Huntingdon’s found in sheep
sheep
Blood samples revealed ‘startling differences’ in the biochemistry of sheep carrying the HD gene.

Research uncovers biomarkers for illness before symptoms begin
 
Scientists say they have identified early warning signs of Huntingdon’s disease in sheep carrying the human HD mutation, suggesting the illness affects the body long before physical symptoms appear.

The research, carried out by the Universities of Surrey and Cambridge and published in Scientific Reports, could offer new insights into this devastating illness in humans.

Huntingdon’s disease is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder that affects more than 6,700 people in the UK. There is no cure, and patients typically die 10-25 years after diagnosis.

Researchers found metabolic changes in five-year-old sheep carrying the HD gene. Up until this point, the animals had shown no signs of the illness.

Blood samples revealed ‘startling differences’ in the biochemistry of sheep carrying the HD gene, compared to normal sheep. There were significant changes in 89 out of 130 metabolites measured in the blood, with increased levels of amino acids, arginine and citrulline, and decreased levels of sphingolipids and fatty acids that are commonly found in brain and nervous tissue.

Researchers say the alterations in metabolites suggests that the urea cycle and nitric oxide pathways, which are both vital body processes, are dysregulated in the early stages of Huntingdon’s disease. The identification of these biomarkers could help to track the disease in pre-symptomatic patients, and could help researchers to come up with strategies to address the biochemical abnormalities.

Professor Jenny Morton from the University of Cambridge said: “Despite its devastating impacts on patients and their families, there are currently limited treatments options, and no cure for Huntington’s disease. The development of objective and reliable biomarkers that can be rapidly measured from blood samples becomes immeasurably important once clinical trials for therapies begin.

“The more we learn about this devastating illness the better chance we have of finding a cure.”

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Newborn okapi named after Meghan Markle

News Story 1
 An endangered okapi recently born at London Zoo has been named Meghan - after Prince Harry’s fiancé Meghan Markle - in celebration of the upcoming royal wedding. Okapis are classed as endangered in the wild, having suffered ongoing declines since 1995. Zookeeper Gemma Metcalf said: “We’re very pleased with how mother and baby are doing. Oni is being very attentive, making sure she regularly licks her clean and keeping a watchful eye over Meghan as she sleeps.” Image © ZSL London Zoo  

News Shorts
Ten new cases of Alabama rot confirmed

Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists has confirmed 10 new cases of Alabama rot, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the UK to 122.

In a Facebook post, the referral centre said the cases were from County Durham, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, Sussex, West Somerset, Devon, and Powys.

Pet owners are urged to remain vigilant and seek advice from their vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions/sores.