The secret ingredient: yeast reveals hope for treating Huntington's disease

Posted by pt91 at Jan 14, 2011 02:30 PM |
Geneticists at the University of Leicester have made a discovery that could lead to treatments for this incurable disease. And it’s thanks to a substance you might just find in your kitchen.
The secret ingredient: yeast reveals hope for treating Huntington's disease

Baker’s yeast, seen through a scanning electron microscopy.

Yeast may have obvious benefits to bakers, but to Dr Flaviano Giorgini and his team in the Department of Genetics its value is as a useful model for clarifying the genes and cellular pathways involved in this devastating disease.

They have used a novel functional genomics profiling approach to identify genes that protect these simple organisms from disease symptoms, allowing the team to understand the mechanisms by which the disease strikes. Their approach has revealed a previously unconsidered cellular process linked to Huntington’s disease, one that suggests that similar drug treatment to another neurodegenerative disorder, Parkinson’s disease, may prove to be beneficial.

Research in recent years has found that baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) can be used to study mechanisms underlying disease pathology, and this simple organism has been used to identify several promising candidate drug targets for neurodegenerative disorders. It is also useful as a model in other areas of genetics research; for example, Professor Rhona Borts has been using it to investigate human fertility at Leicester.

As well as members of Dr Giorgini’s team at Leicester, the work involved scientists from the University of Lisbon (led by Dr Tiago Outeiro) and University of California at San Francisco (led by Dr Paul Muchowski).

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