Patients thrill to reports of a promising antisense drug against Huntington disease, but no one is sure yet whether it works. Dardengo's father, shown holding her son Joel in a 1989 photo, died of Huntington disease. Michelle Dardengo walks her dog near her home in Coquitlam, Canada. The dark shadow of Huntington disease fell squarely over Michelle Dardengo's life on the day in 1986 that her 52-year-old father was found floating in the river in Tahsis, the remote Vancouver Island mill town where she grew up. Richard Varney had left his wedding ring, watch, and wallet on the bathroom counter; ridden his bike to a bridge that spans the rocky river; and jumped. The 4.5-meter drop broke his pelvis. The town doctor happened to be fishing below and pulled Varney out as he floated downstream, saving his life. The once funny man who read the Encyclopedia Britannica for pleasure; the good dancer who loved ABBA, the Three Tenors, and AC/DC; the affable volunteer firefighter--that man was disappearing. He was being replaced by an erratic, raging misanthrope wedded to 40-ounce bottles of Bacardi whose legs would not stay still when he reclined in his La-Z-Boy.
A new experimental drug developed by a team of researchers from the University College London promised to curb the deadly Huntington's Disease. The drug, which is to be injected into the spinal fluid, gave a ray of hope after it was tested on some patients during a trial. The clinical trial conducted at the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London consisted of 46 patients. During the trial, the researchers injected a synthetic molecule (experimental drug) into the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord of the subjects. The experiment appeared to prevent the mutated Huntington gene from producing the faulty protein.