Weight loss is an important complication of Huntington’s disease (HD), however the mechanism for weight loss in HD is not entirely understood. Mutant huntingtin is expressed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and, in HD mice, mutant huntingtin inclusions are found within the enteric nervous system along the GI tract. A reduction of neuropeptides, decreased mucosal thickness and villus length, as well as gut motility impairment, have also been shown in HD mice. We therefore set out to study gastric mucosa of patients with HD, looking for abnormalities of mucosal cells using immunohistochemistry. In order to investigate possible histological differences related to gastric acid production, we evaluated the cell density of acid producing parietal cells, as well as gastrin producing cells (the endocrine cell controlling parietal cell function). In addition, we looked at chief cells and somatostatin-containing cells. In gastric mucosa from HD subjects, compared to control subject biopsies, a reduced expression of gastrin (a marker of G cells) was found. This is in line with previous HD mouse studies showing reduction of GI tract neuropeptides.
Background: People with Huntington’s disease (HD) often require tailored healthcare and support packages that develop as the disease progresses. The Client Service Receipt Inventory (CSRI) gathers retrospective information on service utilization. This study investigated the use of formal services and informal care as measured by the CSRI and explored associations between informal care, disease severity and functional ability as measured by the Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale Total Motor Score (UHDRS-TMS) and functional scales.
Methods: All monitored longitudinal data from annual clinical assessments of UHDRS-TMS and functional assessments and CSRI collected under the auspices of the European Huntington’s Disease Network (EHDN) REGISTRY study between the years 2004 and 2009 were utilised in the analyses. Disease severity was reflected by UHDRS-TMS. Functional ability was measured using the UHDRS functional scales. CSRI data were analysed according to percentage use of individual formal services and total estimated hours per week of informal care. Regression analyses were conducted to identify any associations between disease severity, functional ability and hours of informal care.
Results: 451 HD patients (212 female; 239 male) completed one visit; 105 patients (54 females; 51 males) completed two visits and 47 patients (20 females; 27 males) completed three visits in total over the 5 year period. The mean time between visits was 1.2 years. At visit one, 74% of the participants reported being in receipt of at least one formal hospital-based service in the previous six months, and 89% reported receipt of formal primary and community care services. In contrast, at the third visit, 62% of people had used hospital based services and 94% formal community based services in the previous six months. Fifty % of individuals required some form of informal care in the home at visit 1; this increased to 68% at visits 2 and 3. The mean (SD) estimated weekly total informal care hours at visits 1, 2 and 3 were 32.8 (49.4); 21.6 (53.6) and 21.3 (62.4) respectively. Only the scores on the Functional Assessment Scale (FAS) accounted for the variance in the weekly total informal care hours at each visit.
Conclusions: Although it must be acknowledged that service use is supply driven, most HD patients across Europe surveyed as part of this study were in receipt of formal primary and community care services and to a lesser extent formal hospital based services. There was however a large reliance on informal care in the home. The FAS appear to have predictive value on informal care requirements and may have utility in facilitating pro-active service provision and in particular when managing carer burden in this population.