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GM1 Research Update - for Huntington's Disease and other neurological diseases

Recently, Dr. Kimberly Vonnahme, board chair, and I had the opportunity to talk with Ag Week News about the “special” sheep at Harvest Hope Farm and how these sheep have the potential to be a part of advancing treatment for Huntington’s Disease as well as other neurological diseases including Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.


As many of you know, my family is deeply connected to Huntington’s Disease.  I describe myself as a child of HD, having grown up for most of my life with a mom who was symptomatic and eventually died when I was 13 years old.  My sister, Lisa, passed away in June 2011.  Both were 49 years old.  Throughout my life I have attended HD support groups connecting me with many other individuals and families who have been devastated by this disease and since starting Harvest Hope Farm we have become connected with many more who are also impacted by HD, whether through a family member, friend, co-worker or maybe an acquaintance.     


In 2017, Jason and I became connected with an amazing couple, Sue and Larry Holler.  Sue and Larry have been conducting research for Huntington’s Disease and other neurological diseases for over 30 years.  This research is conducted at Glycoscience Research, in Brookings, South Dakota.  Sue and Larry also have a non-profit, Shepherd’s Gift for GM1 that is the fundraising arm for their research and where they also raise a flock of sheep being used for this research.


We were fortunate to have Sue and Larry entrust us with 10 pregnant ewes in March 2018.  Our small flock of 10 has now grown to nearly 100 since 2018, many of which are gene carriers for this important research.


If you had/have the chance to see our interview with Ag Week you will understand that there is a dire need for this research to advance, now.  For that reason, I am going to recap some of the information shared in that interview.


In a 2016 study by Rawlins and coworkers, it was reported that the prevalence of HD is increasing 15-20% per decade in North America, Australia, and Western Europe.  Currently, it is estimated that there are 250,000 people per year with this devastating disease.


There is a promising therapy for Huntington’s Disease known as GM1 Ganglioside (GM1).  GM1 is a natural molecule that has shown great promise in treating and even reversing Huntington’s

symptoms in mouse models.  GM1 research also gives hope for other neurological diseases.

GM1 ganglioside may help those living with Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease in addition to other neurological diseases.


GM1 is a glycolipid that is found in all mammals.  GM1 is deficient in HD, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s patients.  In animal models of these neurological diseases, GM1 has shown great promise in reversing their symptoms.  There are sheep that known to overproduce GM1 and the Hollers have successfully isolated this GM1.  Some of these “special” sheep call Harvest Hope Farm their home and we want to continue to find a way to advance this life changing research.


What’s the hold up? 


What is missing is a GM1 source that FDA will approve.  After a pre-Investigative New Drug Application, FDA agreed that GM1 from a specific genetic line of sheep can meet their requirements for drug approval.


The Shepherd’s Gift (TSG) is dedicated to shepherding ovine GM1 through the elaborate and expensive clinical trial process while giving hope to people affected with neurologic diseases.

It takes large sums of money to get through the new drug approval process.


The remarkable part of this project is that while sheep farmers are producing a value added product, they are helping improve the quality of life for others. And in return rural economies benefit.


The Shepherd’s Gift: GM1 for HD brings together families – the families who are living with this

debilitating disease and sheep farmers.


It’s all about families helping families.  Harvest Hope Farm is proud to be a part of this HD family through raising sheep for this vital research.  We are just one small producer that has a vested interest in helping the HD community.


At this time, it is imperative to help find substantial resources to advance the research that Sue and Larry Holler have advanced so much.  If you have ideas or contacts, we encourage you to contact Shepherd’s Gift for GM1 or Harvest Hope Farm.


As always, please continue to pray and hope for a cure for Huntington’s Disease and other neurological diseases.  We pray that this generation will be the last to experience these diseases.

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