Huntington’s Expert to Give Webinar on Environmental Factors Influencing the Disease

Joana Fernandes, PhD avatar

by Joana Fernandes, PhD |

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Huntington's webinar

Huntington’s disease specialist Herwig Lange will give an online presentation Thursday, April 6, on environmental factors that impact the disease’s onset, progression and severity.

Patients, caregivers, disease advocates, foundation members and others interested in Huntington’s can register for the free webinar here.

The presentation will be titled “Beyond Genetics: The Importance Of Environmental Factors In The Development Of Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in the gene encoding the huntingtin (HTT) protein. The mutations disrupt the normal activity of the protein, leading to loss of the neurons that produce dopamine — an important messenger molecule in the brain — and to brain atrophy.

The disease’s manifestations include psychiatric issues such as depression and psychosis, cognitive deficit, motor deficiency and involuntary movement.

Genetics isn’t the only thing that determines what happens in Huntington’s, however. Other factors, including lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, and psychological issues, can influence the age at onset and the progression of the disease.

This may explain why patients with similar genetic burdens develop the disease at different ages: The range of onset is 25 to 70 years old.

Lange will discuss several environmental factors’ influence on Huntington’s onset and progression. He will also cover case studies of monozygotic twins — those with the same genetics — who began manifesting the disease’s symptoms within five years of each other.

“Lifestyle is an important aspect of any diseases, so it would be a total surprise if this would not hold true for [Huntington’s disease],” Lange said in a press release. “Part of a healthy lifestyle is healthy food, non-strenuous physical and mental activity, with adequate resting periods.”

Lange will also address particular lifestyle factors that can influence Huntington’s. They include a Mediterranean diet, which is heavy on olive oil, fish and vegetables; substance abuse, including smoking and caffeine consumption; body weight; the impact of sleep and stress on brain health; and ways to improve brain activity.

Other topics will include updates on disease treatments — from cannabis to gene therapy; caregiver best practices; and the beneficial effect that a calm home and family life can have on those with Huntington’s.