The erythrocyte osmotic fragility was evaluated on 19 unmedicated subjects with Huntington's disease and 42 individuals at 50% risk, 27 children at 25% risk, and a group of 60 hematologically normal control persons. Five older subjects at 50% risk for Huntington's disease as well as 6 Alzheimer's disease individuals were also evaluated for comparison. The osmotic fragility of fresh and 24-hour incubated red cells was analyzed and a fragility index calculated for each individual. The fragility index for the Huntington's disease group was statistically lower than that of the control group (P < .001) suggesing that the Huntington's disease erythrocytes had a reduced osmotic fragility. In the 50% risk group, 45% of the subjects demonstrated decreased osmotic fragility and 55% had normal fragility. For those subjects in the 25% risk group, 22.2% had decreased fragility and 77.8% had normal fragility. Twenty-seven offspring were evaluated of the 14 persons at 50% risk for Huntington's disease with children; eight of the 14 individuals at 50% risk showed normal fragility and all 16 of their children showed fragility indices with the normal range. The remaining six persons at 50% risk for Huntington's disease had increased erythrocyte fragility and out of their 11 children, five showed normal fragility and six had decreased fragility. These data support the hypothesis of reduced erythrocyte osmotic fragility in individuals affected with and at risk for Huntingdon disease, and demonstrate the need of further study of the erythrocyte in this complex behavioral genetic disease.
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