Hersch Laboratory: Steven M. Hersch, MD, PhD
MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND)
Building 114, Charlestown Navy Yard
114 16th Street, Room 2003
Mail code: CNY B114-2-2003
Charlestown, MA 02129
Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Explore This Lab
Basic Science Research
A major focus of Dr. Steve Hersch’s research is to understand the role of the huntingtin protein in the pathogenesis of Huntington’s disease.
The recipient of federal government grants, Dr. Hersch is also supported by private foundations including the HDSA and the Hereditary Disease Foundation (HDF).
Dr. Hersch and collaborators conduct clinical research studies and clinical trials to advance the diagnosis and treatment of Huntington’s disease.
He is developing a translational research program to more rapidly bring research findings into clinical practice.
Dr. Hersch has had leadership roles in Huntington Study Group (HSG) research.
Basic Science Research
The Hersch Laboratory is currently conducting research in the following areas.
- Neuroanatomic and chemical changes
- The huntingtin protein
- Animal and cell models
- Experimental treatments
- Brain imaging
- Genetic modifiers of HD
- Alterations in gene and protein expression and function
- Biomarker development
Completed Clinical Trials
Creatine, Tolerability, and Efficacy in Huntington's Disease (CREST-E)
This study, a definitive test of whether high-dose creatine can slow the progression of HD, is in collaboration with the Huntington’s Study Group and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Orphan Products division.
Creatine is a natural substance that can help supply energy to cells and also reduces oxidative stress to brain cells. In HD, brain cells run out of energy, hastening their degeneration. Earlier studies using creatine with HD mouse models as well as smaller pilot clinical trials led by Drs. Hersch and Rosas demonstrated impressive results. “Large amounts of creatine have to be ingested in order for therapeutic levels to reach the brain, so safety was a big concern,” says Dr. Hersch. “However, our Phase II trial with only 10 patients showed that high levels were safe and reached the brain. We were also amazed to see that a blood biomarker that detects brain degeneration was normalized, and brain imaging showed a slowing of brain shrinkage.”
Now, 650 patients from 44 sites around the world will test whether creatine monohydrate can slow the progression of HD in comparison to a placebo. The trial will take five years and millions of dollars to determine whether the biological effects that were observed in the small trial will translate to significantly slowing down disease progression and maintaining the quality of life for patients with HD.
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