Functional modulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) by mutant huntingtin

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a hereditary, degenerative brain disorder that gradually diminishes movement and memory. HD has no cure and there are no treatments that prevent or slow the disease. Symptoms appear in middle age, with death usually occurring within 20 years as cells in specific parts of the brain slowly die or stop functioning properly. Mannie Fan is investigating the function of the huntingtin protein that causes HD, and also the molecular mechanisms that underlie development of the disease. Studies show that the death of brain cells associated with HD may result from too much activity in molecules called NMDA receptors, which normally facilitate brain cell communication. Mannie is investigating the underlying mechanisms that contribute to this increased activity. The research could help explain why people with the huntingtin protein develop HD and possibly lead to novel strategies for treating or preventing the disease.