The mutation generates repeating RNA sequences and these repeating sequences, known as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are what slowly damage neural cells, causing the progressive neurodegeneration associated with the condition.
Previous research by the same Northwestern team discovered that siRNA molecules were amazing cancer-killing assassins that evolved in living organisms millions of years ago to fight cancer before the more complex adaptive immune system developed.
The repeating siRNA sequences found in Huntington's pathology were discovered to be very similar to the siRNA molecules identified in the team's earlier work.
So the next step was to test whether this particular molecule, when delivered via nanoparticles to mice, actually worked to kill cancer cells.
"We believe a short-term treatment cancer therapy for a few weeks might be possible, where we could treat a patient to kill the cancer cells without causing the neurological issues that Huntington's patients suffer from," says Marcus Peter.