The authors have studied in fresh and 24-hour incubated samples the osmotic fragility of erythrocytes from 13 individuals with Huntington disease (HD) and 22 at-risk, asymptomatic individuals. Five older at-risk, asymptomatic individuals and six Alzheimer disease individuals were also studied. Results suggest that osmotic fragility of red cells from HD individuals is significantly decreased in fresh (P <0.0001) and incubated (P <0.001) samples. At-risk individuals appear to fall into two groups: 1) those with normal osmotic fragility (n = 10), and 2) those with decreased osmotic fragility (n = 12). Fragility in older at-risk persons and those with Alzheimer disease were within normal limits. These data suggest that red cell osmotic fragility measurement may be useful to identify at-risk persons with an HD gene; however, longitudinal follow-up will be required to confirm the predictive power of this observation. These data suggest additional support for focusing on the erythrocyte in investigating the molecular pathogenesis of HD.
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