Huntington's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder affecting 250,000 Americans, is
a case of biochemical woe. Tangles of protein collect in brain cells. The tissue
dies, leaving gaping holes in people's brains. But the protein–dubbed
huntingtin–doesn't kill cells directly. Instead, it kidnaps another protein
essential for cell survival, researchers report in the March 23 Science.
Christopher A. Ross of Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore and his
colleagues demonstrated in a test tube how huntingtin contributes to cell death.
The scientists were also able to halt the process, saving doomed human cells.
Huntington's disease is a fatal disorder that begins in midlife and eventually
destroys muscle control and cognitive abilities. It's caused by a single mutated
copy of the gene for huntingtin. The damaged gene makes a version of the protein