Emory Report
June 9, 2008
Volume 60, Number 32



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June 9, 2008
Researchers develop first transgenic Huntington’s disease monkey model

By Lisa Newbern

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, in collaboration with researchers from Emory’s Department of Human Genetics, have developed the first transgenic nonhuman primate model of Huntington’s disease, one of the most devastating human neurodegenerative diseases.

This development is expected to lead to greater understanding of the underlying biology of HD and to the development of potential therapies. In addition, this pioneering study is leading the way toward the development of nonhuman primate models of other genetic diseases.

HD is a genetic, neurodegenerative disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, loss of mental processing capabilities and emotional disturbances.

According to lead researcher Anthony W.S. Chan, “In the past, researchers have used transgenic mouse models to study the disease. These models do not completely parallel the brain changes and behavioral features observed in humans with HD, thus making the development of a transgenic nonhuman primate model critical to currently treating and ultimately preventing the disease.”

Chan noted, “The transgenic monkeys are providing us with unparalleled opportunities for behavioral and cognitive assessments that mirror the assessments used with humans. With such information, we are developing a more comprehensive view of the disease than currently available.”

The researchers, who are continuing to assess the transgenic monkeys, believe their progress bodes well for developing transgenic nonhuman primate models of other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.