This week, HDSA began soliciting Letters of Interest from Huntington’s disease clinics that would like to be considered for HDSA Center of Excellence designation in 2021. HDSA Centers of Excellence provide comprehensive multidisciplinary clinical services to families affected by HD, including opportunities to participate in clinical research.  

Any clinic or neurology service in the United States may apply as long as they meet the minimum service criteria. These criteria and other details about the HDSA Center of Excellence Program can be found in the Program Description.  

Prospective clinics should complete the online Letter of Interest, due by September 14th, 2020, and full applications will be due November 30th, 2020.  Please feel free to share this information with HD clinics in your area that are not currently HDSA Centers of Excellence.   

Experimental Stem Cell Transplant Shows No Benefit for HD 

Between 2001 and 2010, forty-five people in France with early HD symptoms volunteered for a study in which they received fetal stem cell transplants into their brains, in hopes that the new cells could replace some of the ones that were lost to HD. The results of that study were published this month. Unfortunately, the treatment did not improve their symptoms or slow down their HD, and the surgery caused severe side effects for some participants.  

Although the experimental treatment was not effective, this news does not rule out research into stem cells as a strategy for treating HD. In the intervening decades, as these patients were closely monitored, there have been major advances in technology, including the ability to create a type of reprogrammed adult stem cell that would eliminate the need for fetal tissue. Some of the challenges of this recently published trial, like the person’s body rejecting the transplant, could potentially be circumvented using a participant’s own cells. The authors propose that research needs to “return to the bench” before another attempt in humans, but the study led directly to the development of improved surgical procedures, and the lessons learned will certainly guide future trials for HD and other brain diseases.