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Clay County family raise sheep for cure to Huntington's Disease

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CLAY COUNTY—Tucked back in the woods, just north of Moorhead, a flock of sheep could hold the key to helping slow or stop, a deadly disease that impacts families all over the region.

Huntington's Disease is a cruel, progressive brain disorder that kills, but a unique group of sheep may be the weapon needed against it.

Lynn Kotrba has been busy raising seven kids of her own, and now 12 lambs.

Lynn and her family volunteered to help with the war on Huntington's Disease and on their farm in rural Clay County, the city kids are taking care of a flock of sheep that have been specially bred.

"It is called the Gm1, Ovine gene, and that gene produces Glycolipid, and it is concentrated in the liver and so their liver would be used to make medication for humans," said Lynn.

The lambs carry a special trait, that right now is leading to promising results in mice; human trials to start soon.

"It is emotional for me, thinking if this works, if this research works and works in humans, my generation would be the last generation to know what Huntington's Disease is," said Lynn.

The research, raising these sheep is personal.

Lynn was just 13 when she lost her mom to Huntington's Disease and her sister Lisa died too from it., both at age 49.

"If this can end Huntington's Disease, or reduce it, it is totally worth it," said Lynn.

Despite trying to raise a big family, Lynn and Jason are quickly learning how to be sheep farmers, and they learned quickly.

Another Ewe decided an 85 degree spring day would be a great way to bring in yet another lamb to the farm.

This research is part of a nationwide study in selected flocks and is also going on in England.

For more information on the farm, click here

Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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