So there I was browsing through scientific websites looking for a topic to do my assignment on, and I came across a chemical that I’ve used in biology and chemistry labs before, and apparently it has properties that help in Huntington’s Disease. This is being researched by Leslie Thompson, a neurobiologist at University of California–Irvine and her team. Leslie Thompson is in the picture below:
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a genetic disorder that disturbs muscle coordination and results in mental deterioration and psychiatric issues. It is usually recognizable in adults in their 30s and 40s. HD is the most common genetic cause of abnormal involuntary writhing movements called chorea. Huntington’s disease occurs when the C-A-G sequence of DNA base pairs repeats too often on the HTT gene, creating a long version of the Huntington protein, which therefore folds incorrectly and produces clumps in the brain. HTT is a protein that interacts with many other proteins as well as has many biological functions. HD is not caused by inadequate production of HTT, but by an accumulation of the toxic function mHTT. It is a neurodegenerative disease, which causes a gradual loss of structure or function or death of neurons.
Below is a microscope image of a neuron with inclusion (stained orange) caused by HD, image width 250 µm:
Methylene blue is said to disrupt the formation of mHTT protein clumps in HD. Methylene blue was used to treat ailments from cyanide poisoning to malaria from since 1897. However, Food and Drug administration has never officially acknowledged it as a therapy for any diseases or illness. There is currently no drug produced to stop HD progression. Methylene blue itself is not harmful to humans.
The research team is currently experimenting with flies and mice. Drosophila flies with mHtt gene were given food mixed with methylene blue for seven days. Results of the flies’ brains showed that protein clumps had been reduced by 87 percent compared with a control group. The mice with the mHTT gene were tested for mobility. The 2-month old treated mice demonstrated irregular clasping of their hind claws only 20 percent of the time in a reflex test, while the untreated mice clasped at a 60 percent rate. Less clasping meant healthier mice. However, the amount of mice used was not large enough to give statistically feasible results and the difference in the tests “dropped off” after 9 weeks.
The research team says a lot more research on methylene blue is needed but they are hopeful because the early steps of clumping of the mHTT protein is significantly altered in test tubes, the flies and also the mice. They state that methylene blue may prevent mHTT from sticking to itself. Thompson highlights that “Methylene blue would absolutely require further testing in mouse models and would need safety and efficacy trial before it could be used for humans.”
Now think about the difference that a chemical we use as a stain and indicator..has the ability to save the millions of people that suffer from HD worldwide. Furthermore, what other chemicals purposes are being underrated and not utilized? I really hope that the clinical trials go well and methylene blue is approved as a therapy for Huntington’s Disease.