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The Hurdles of Huntington’s

Original article featured on BioTech Primer Weekly

THE HURDLES OF HUNTINGTON’S

The nervous system is an incredibly complex piece of human machinery, stretching to the far reaches of the body while controlling and receiving the nuances of life from a central command station. Just like any part of the human body, the central nervous system (CNS) is affected by various diseases that are sometimes not entirely understood. After last week’s foray into the Alzheimer’s, we turn to investigate Huntington’s disease. Let’s catch up on the basics of the nervous system and find out what biotech has in the pipeline for this genetic neurodegenerative disease of the CNS.

NERVOUS SYSTEM PRIMER

The CNS—which consists of the brain and spinal cord—works in tandem with the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is the vast network of nerves feeding into every tissue of the body, the tentacles of data for the CNS. The signals received from nerve cells enable voluntary and involuntary movement, and allow the brain to process and interpret sensory information via the spinal cord.

Specialized cells called neurons convert chemical messages into electrical signals to convey data throughout the nervous system. The branch-like extensions are called dendrites, which work to take in chemical messages down through the cell body (soma). The long, tail-like extension on the other end is called an axon. They are enclosed in a fatty membrane known as a myelin sheath, which serves to insulate the axons and facilitate the passage of the electrical signal through the axon terminals.

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