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Antihistamines could slow progression of Huntington's disease

Researchers say the drug could help ease patients’ symptoms in the earliest stages

Photo (c) Shidlovski - Getty Images
While early detection is key for consumers struggling with Huntington’s disease, finding comprehensive therapies can be difficult. Now, a new study conducted found that antihistamines can be an effective way to combat symptoms related to Huntington’s in the early stages. 

“It was already well-known that dopamine signaling goes away in Huntington’s disease, but we and other research teams have shown more recently that dopamine receptors and histamine receptors are found together and control signaling in the brain,” said researcher David Moreno-Delgado. 

“Because dopamine receptors are found in many normal cells throughout the central nervous system, we proposed that targeting dopamine signaling through the histamine receptor might be a more effective strategy to slow the progression of Huntington’s disease.” 

Tracking the effect of antihistamines

To better understand the effect that antihistamines could have on patients with Huntington’s, the researchers conducted their study on mice. 

They gave a group of the mice the antihistamine thioperamide and then observed what effect the drug had on functions that are typically altered as Huntington’s progresses, including memory, movement, and learning. 

They observed that the mice given the antihistamine showed better memory outcomes than those that hadn’t been given the drug, and their movement quality was on par with healthy mice. 

The researchers then looked at the relationship between the dopamine and histamine receptors (D1R-H3R) in mice at various junctures of their Huntington’s journeys. Before the mice started showing symptoms, the two proteins were working together; however, the researchers observed that as the disease progressed, which was typically around the six- to eight-month mark, they were no longer working cohesively. 

When applied to their experiment, they learned that implementing this treatment plan as early as possible after diagnosis will yield the best results. When they tried giving mice an antihistamine during that six- to eight-month period, they saw no improvements in their symptoms. However, the group that had been given the antihistamine in the earliest stages showed improvements at that same stage. 

“The imbalance of dopamine signalling in disease progression represents a potential ‘point of no return’ for Huntington’s disease patients as it can eventually lead to nerve-cell dysfunction and death,” said researcher Peter McCormick. “In this study we show that D1R/H3R complexes are found within the brain at early- but not late-disease stages and that targeting these complexes could potentially slow the progression of early-stage diseases.”  

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