A Metabolic Study of Huntington's Disease

PLoS One. 2016 Jan 8;11(1):e0146480. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146480. eCollection 2016.


Background: Huntington's disease patients have a number of peripheral manifestations suggestive of metabolic and endocrine abnormalities. We, therefore, investigated a number of metabolic factors in a 24-hour study of Huntington's disease gene carriers (premanifest and moderate stage II/III) and controls.

Methods: Control (n = 15), premanifest (n = 14) and stage II/III (n = 13) participants were studied with blood sampling over a 24-hour period. A battery of clinical tests including neurological rating and function scales were performed. Visceral and subcutaneous adipose distribution was measured using magnetic resonance imaging. We quantified fasting baseline concentrations of glucose, insulin, cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoprotein (a), fatty acids, amino acids, lactate and osteokines. Leptin and ghrelin were quantified in fasting samples and after a standardised meal. We assessed glucose, insulin, growth hormone and cortisol concentrations during a prolonged oral glucose tolerance test.

Results: We found no highly significant differences in carbohydrate, protein or lipid metabolism markers between healthy controls, premanifest and stage II/III Huntington's disease subjects. For some markers (osteoprotegerin, tyrosine, lysine, phenylalanine and arginine) there is a suggestion (p values between 0.02 and 0.05) that levels are higher in patients with premanifest HD, but not moderate HD. However, given the large number of statistical tests performed interpretation of these findings must be cautious.

Conclusions: Contrary to previous studies that showed altered levels of metabolic markers in patients with Huntington's disease, our study did not demonstrate convincing evidence of abnormalities in any of the markers examined. Our analyses were restricted to Huntington's disease patients not taking neuroleptics, anti-depressants or other medication affecting metabolic pathways. Even with the modest sample sizes studied, the lack of highly significant results, despite many being tested, suggests that the majority of these markers do not differ markedly by disease status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • Human Growth Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / blood*
  • Huntington Disease / pathology
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin / blood
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Ghrelin
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone

Grant support

The study was funded by a contract from Cure Huntington's Disease Initiative # A-2377. Scientific advisors from CHDI contributed to study design.