Dr Elizabeth McCusker

Dr Elizabeth McCusker says she is "absolutely passionate" about the research she is conducting into the debilitating and ultimately deadly Huntington Disease.

Huntington Disease is a genetic brain disease for which there is no cure. It affects people in their early to midlife, and they generally live with the disease for 15 to 25 years after diagnosis. It is associated with dementia and movement restriction.

Moreover, "This is a disease that carries from generation to generation, with carers knowing that they may carry the disease themselves," Dr McCusker says.

Just stop and think about what this might mean. You spend 15 to 25 years caring for one of your parents, watching them slowly lose both their movement and their mind. Throughout these years, you carry the burden of knowledge that it is possible that you, also, may carry the disease, and symptoms could start to appear while you are still caring for your parent.

Dr McCusker is part of a team at Westmead that is using new genetic testing to allow them earlier access to information about influences -- other than gene mutations -- that may cause the disease. This knowledge offers them options to intervene before the disease takes hold. In a second study, the doctors and researchers are trialing three different treatment drugs.

"We are involved in a number of studies that offer us hope," Dr McCusker says. "Westmead Medical Research Foundation has made this possible for us by providing money and training, and items for us to use in our ward.

"We have a growing hope that this disease, and others like it, could be cured."

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