Monthly Archives: November 2011

Amaryllis Season is here!


Amaryllis Season is here!
Amaryllis bulbs are among the easiest bulbs to grow indoors and the most rewarding. These premium Dutch bulbs need minimal attention but you will be rewarded with spectacular blooms to brighten up the dark winter days.
Planting Amaryllis and watching them grow is a fun activity for the entire family.
Amaryllis are available in individual kits for gift giving or cases of solid colors and assorted.
Each Amaryllis kit will contain everything you
need to have your own spectacular Amaryllis
this winter including:
• One 26/28 cm Amaryllis Bulb
• Decorative Pot
• Professional Growing Medium
• Planting Care and Aftercare Instructions
Each kit costs only $10.00
Amaryllis make the perfect gift that can be enjoyed for many weeks. Some gift ideas
• Thanksgiving
• Christmas
• Chanukah
• Housewarming
• Get Well
• Birthday
• Gifts for friends, teachers, co-workers
When you purchase an Amaryllis plant, you support the fight against Huntington’s disease in your community and across America, and allow HDSA programs of research, care, education and advocacy continue to grow.
The Huntington’s Disease Society of America has been leading the fight against HD for 43 years.
Amaryllis can be purchased from your local chapter or place your order online.
To find your local chapter please click here
To order individual kits online please click here
To order cases of 16 online please click here


Don’t miss this night to remember…


Don’t miss this night to remember…

Join the National Football League in supporting the…
Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s
Celebration of Hope Gala
NFL: America’s Passion
Presented By:
National University, Qualcomm, San Diego Chargers, and
Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
Go inside America’s game with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, ESPN’s Chris Berman and NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, and Michael Irvin.
The HDSA is also proud to honor Peggy Johnson, Qualcomm Executive Vice President & President, Global Market Development, for her many contributions to the fight against Huntington’s disease.
Wednesday, November 9
Manchester Grand Hyatt
1 Market Place, San Diego


Bid on these once-in-a-lifetime experiences…
phone-in bidders welcome
VIP Super Bowl Experience includes game and Commissioner’s Party
Pebble Beach Dream Package
VIP Dinner for 8 at Pamplemousse with Chargers Tight End Antonio Gates
VIP Experience to Chargers – Bears Game in Chicago
“Inside The Ropes” with CBS’ David Feherty at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course
“Sideline Photographer for Two” for Charger – Raider Game, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011
2 Night Stay in a Bellagio Lakeview Suite, Two Tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s “O” and Dinner for Two at Jasmine Restaurant. Includes Two Roundtrip Airfare Tickets.
Larry Lucchino’s personal Dugout seats at a 2012 Boston Red Sox game; exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour of Fenway Park during 100th Anniversary Season
100,000 Marriott Rewards Points!
Tickets to the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, includes hotel accommodations, dinner and red carpet opportunity
Exclusive Tickets to see “The Bachelor: The Final Rose”
Padres Suite Package includes 18 Tickets, Parking, Batting Practice and More
Five-Course Dinner for 8 at Azul in La Jolla with Chargers Antonio Garay & Eric Weddle
VIP Tickets to “Dancing with the Stars”
Five-Night Stay in Beautiful Telluride, Colorado
Week Stay at Grand Pacific Resorts, Orlando Timeshare and Family Four Pack of Tickets to Walt Disney World!
Foursome of Golf combined with a Club-fitting Session at the TaylorMade Performance Lab and One Day Golf School at the Aviara Golf Academy
Two-Night Stay at The Grand Del Mar includes Golf
2 Night Stay at Caesar’s Palace and $150 Gift Certificate to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill
Dick Butkus Autographed Hall of Fame lithograph. Only 300 made!
Don Shula Autographed Hall of Fame lithograph. Only 300 made!
Jim Brown Autographed Hall of Fame lithograph. Only 300 made!
Framed, Autographed Philip Rivers Jersey
Framed, Autographed Drew Brees Jersey
Framed, Autographed Lance Alworth Jersey

Melatonin delays disease onset and extends survival in Huntington’s disease mice – could it do the same for patients?


Melatonin delays disease onset and extends survival in Huntington’s disease mice – could it do the same for patients?

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, is available in pill form and used to treat sleeping disorders. New research suggests that it can slow down Huntington’s disease in model mice – great news, but it doesn’t mean everyone should rush to take it.

Melatonin and the pineal gland

Melatonin is a hormone – a signaling molecule produced by the body and released into the bloodstream.

In humans and other animals, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland (pronounced ‘pie-kneel’), a slightly mysterious structure deep within the brain. The pineal gland is sometimes referred to as a ‘third eye’, because in some lizards, it’s located on the top of the head, and is used to detect the shadows of flying predators.

Light and dark are also important for the human pineal gland, and the melatonin it produces. The pineal gland receives light signals from the eyes, and releases melatonin when it’s dark. The melatonin acts on the brain’s sleep centers and makes us drowsy. In the longer term, the daily fall and nightly rise in melatonin regulates our pattern of sleeping and waking, keeping it in sync with changes in daylight.

How does melatonin work?

The short answer is that we don’t really know. Like most hormones, melatonin is released and whizzes round in the blood, until it meets a ‘receptor’ molecule on the surface of a cell. Melatonin has two types of receptor – called MT1 and MT2. When melatonin binds to a receptor, a series of chemical reactions inside the cell are triggered, ultimately causing subtle changes in the activation of different genes. It’s probably those gene activation changes that govern the effects of melatonin on sleep.

Beyond sleep

Melatonin keeps surprising scientists, though. Unlike many hormones, melatonin has potentially important chemical properties beyond its ability to activate MT1 and MT2 receptors. It’s an antioxidant, which means it can ‘mop up’ harmful chemicals produced when cells release energy from food.

Because of these properties, it’s been suggested that melatonin may have effects that go way beyond the regulation of sleep – including possibly beneficial effects on things like memory function and cancer. The evidence for these effects is unclear, though.

Melatonin as a drug

Melatonin is available in pill form. In the USA and Canada, it can be purchased over the counter, while in Europe it’s only available on prescription. It’s taken at bedtime to help sleeping, and is quite popular with shift workers and jet-setting travelers.

The amount of melatonin produced by the pineal gland falls slowly as we age, so in some countries melatonin is only approved for use in the elderly.

Not all melatonin pills are the same. The doses vary quite a bit, and some are ‘prolonged release’, meaning the melatonin is released gradually rather than rapidly. Prolonged release melatonin tablets, taken at bedtime, mimic the natural pattern of melatonin more closely.

Melatonin in Huntington’s disease

Some people with Huntington’s disease take melatonin already, and it’s gaining popularity among HD doctors. Sleep problems, especially a disturbed pattern of sleeping and waking, are common in HD. Studies have shown that HD patients produce less melatonin at night than people of the same age who don’t have HD. This may be one reason why people with HD can have problems sleeping, that can sometimes be helped by taking melatonin in the evening.

Disease-modifying and symptomatic treatments

‘Disease modification’ is the holy grail for Huntington’s disease researchers. A disease-modifying drug is one that reduces the damage caused to cells by the HD genetic mutation, preventing or slowing symptoms.

At present, melatonin is used as a ‘symptomatic’ treatment – that’s one that improves symptoms like disturbed sleep, without an expectation that it will prevent HD from getting gradually worse.

There are lots of symptomatic treatments for different aspects of HD, which can make a huge difference to people with the disease. Effective symptomatic treatments are better than nothing – but what we really want is disease-modifying treatments. If we’re really lucky, some disease-modifying treatments might turn out to be good for symptom control, too.

Might melatonin be disease-modifying?

In 2008, a group of researchers led by Dr Robert Friedlander of the University of Pittsburgh, USA, wondered whether any drugs that were already on the market might be able to protect neurons against harm. They tested over a thousand drugs, and melatonin was one of only two that seemed to work.

Our cells have mechanisms for dealing with harmful situations. First, they have ‘stress responses’ that can protect them against dangers like excessive heat. When things get really tough, and a cell is damaged beyond repair, it can sacrifice itself in a controlled way, to prevent damage to nearby cells. Scientists call this noble act ‘programmed cell death’, or ‘apoptosis’ (pronounced ‘a-pop-TOE-sis’).

In their 2008 work, Friedlander’s team gave melatonin to cells with the HD mutation, grown in a dish. The cells lived longer, and had fewer chemical signs of programmed cell death. This was an early suggestion of a possible disease-modifying effect of melatonin in HD.

What’s new?

Since 2008, Friedlander has been trying to figure out how melatonin protects cells with the HD mutation. A new publication in The Journal of Neuroscience sets out the progress that’s been made.

Through a number of different experiments, Friedlander’s team showed that melatonin treatment produced a number of different effects in cells grown in the lab. Melatonin-treated cells had less active programmed cell death systems, more stable electrical activity and more effective garbage removal. Any of these might be helpful.

Friedlander wondered whether these effects were produced by melatonin attaching to its MT1 or MT2 receptors – or whether they might be direct chemical effects because of the anti-oxidant properties of melatonin.

When the cells were instructed not to produce the MT1 receptor, the protective effects of melatonin were lost. That suggests that melatonin attaching to MT1 is the important step. Getting rid of the MT2 receptor didn’t alter the effect of melatonin, confirming that MT1 is the more important receptor.

Curiously, Friedlander found that cells with the HD mutation actually had fewer MT1 receptors on their surface, especially when they were stressed. That might make it harder for cells to receive the protective effect of melatonin when they need it most. Thankfully, one effect of melatonin treatment was to restore the number of MT1 receptors.

Melatonin treatment in HD mice

The next step was to test melatonin in an animal model of HD. Friedlander chose an HD mouse model called the R6/2 mouse. R6/2 mice become unwell rapidly, so they’re useful for testing drugs quickly. They usually die within 6 months of birth, whereas a normal mouse can live several years.

From a young age, half the mice were given melatonin every day by injection, while half received dummy injections. The mice receiving melatonin retained their movement control for several weeks longer, experienced less brain shrinkage, and survived longer too – around 20% longer, in fact. And several chemical markers of cell death were reduced in the melatonin-treated mice.

Melatonin treatment didn’t reverse all the effects of the HD mutation – the mice still lost weight, died prematurely, and still accumulated blobs of mutant huntingtin protein in their neurons.

What about humans?

Friedlander’s team concluded their work by looking at the melatonin signaling system in brains donated by HD patients after they died – a precious gift to the HD community.

They found reduced levels of the MT1 receptor – like what they’d seen in the cells with the HD mutation. This doesn’t prove that melatonin would be effective in humans, but suggests the changes in the cells are echoed in the human brain.

Should I be taking melatonin?

Through careful research, Freidlander’s team have put together a solid case for the beneficial effects of melatonin in cells with the Huntington’s disease mutation. And a 20% increase in life expectancy, together with delaying of symptoms, in an HD mouse, are encouraging results.

It’s still early days for melatonin as a disease-modifying drug, though. It would be premature to conclude that HD-affected people should take melatonin to prevent or slow the disease.

Melatonin isn’t the first drug that’s been shown to improve the R6/2 mouse – in fact, dozens of drugs have done it before. But so far, each one that’s been tested in human patients has failed to show the same benefit. The R6/2 mouse is just much easier to treat than human patients.

Trials in humans are expensive to run properly, and each one carries risk for the participants. For this reason, many HD researchers feel that drugs should be tested in several different model animals to choose the best ones to take forward into human trials.

Of course, melatonin has the advantage of being approved for human use, indicating that it’s already been through important safety trials. Crucially, though, that doesn’t guarantee that it’s safe or effective for slowing HD.