15th International Congress
15th international congress

News Release

Monday, June 6, 2011
Media Contact:

Elizabeth Laur, (414) 276-2145, elaur@movementdisorders.org
MDS Press Room: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Building, Room 705

Note to media: See abstract 180

Caffeine shown to influence age at onset in Huntington's disease

TORONTO - A study evaluating whether the age at onset (AAO) in Huntington's disease is influenced by caffeine intake was presented today at The Movement Disorder Society's 15th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders.

Because phenotypic expression is variable in Huntington's disease (HD), mutation in the IT15/HD1 gene statistically predicts for the age at onset (AAO). However, on an individual basis, repeat length accounts for about 60% of its variance supporting that 40% of the remaining variance is due to additional genetic and/or environmental factors. Association of AAO with genetic factors has been previously reported. In contrast, whether environmental factors are also able to influence AAO remain unknown.

The study, led by Cecile Duru, MD, of Amiens, France, investigated caffeine since it affects the neurons that express receptors vulnerable to HD. As a type of adenosine receptor agonist, it can affect the function of many tissues including slowing metabolic activity in the brain. Information on 80 HD patients about caffeine consumption, alcohol consumption and smoking habits in the period of the last ten years was collected with a validated self-questionnaire. All patients were evaluated using the Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale. Relation between AAO and potential predictors was tested by bivariate analysis adjusted on CAG repeat length with a linear regression or a covariance analysis.

Results showed that after adjustment of CAG repeat length and smoking habits, patients having a high caffeine consumption ([gt]185 mg/d) have a significant earlier AAO of 4 years (45.4 y) compared to patients who have a caffeine consumption less than 185 mg/d (49.5 y).

Studying caffeine consumption as an environmental factor for the age at onset for Huntington's Disease in comparison to alcohol consumption and smoking shows that caffeine consumption may lower the AAO for HD patients. Dr. Duru's study confirms on a large cohort that caffeine could be the first environmental modifier of AAO in HD. These findings could have an interesting therapeutic impact as modulation of A2A receptors may represent a new strategy for treating HD.

Kathleen Shannon, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, USA states, "Given the severe nature of Huntington's disease, there is a critical need to identify environmental influences that may delay onset of clinically manifest disease. This abstract suggests that onset is earlier in subjects whose intake over the prior 10 years was greater than 185 mg/day (about 2 cups of coffee) compared to those whose intake was less than 185 mg/day. Although this study did not mention the outcome measure, did not allow that caffeine is a movement enhancer, nor did not state if the patients were using caffeine to treat sleepiness, I would say this is somewhat interesting and should be pursued in a larger population."

About the 15th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders:
Meeting attendees are gathered to learn the latest research findings and state-of-the-art treatment options for Movement Disorders, including Parkinson's disease. More than 3,200 physicians and medical professionals from 74 countries will be able to view over 1,100 scientific abstracts submitted by clinicians from around the world.

About The Movement Disorder Society:
The Movement Disorder Society, an international society of over 3,000 clinicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. For more information about The Movement Disorder Society, visit www.movementdisorders.org.