This disease is a neuro-degenerative disease where the victim gradually loses voluntary motor function and cognitive abilities. After the diagnosis, victims typically require full-time care within 10 years or less due to complete loss of function. Most become either wheelchair-bound or bedridden. Many develop dementia, or depression, or psychosis, or all of the above. In the United States, 1 in every 30,000 people have the disease, but that number does not include the people who will eventually develop symptoms, but don't even know it. It is a very serious condition and it is important to understand the epidemiology of this disease as well as how to recognize symptoms early.

What makes this disease so terrifying is that it is hereditary, genetically dominant, and currently incurable. Children of afflicted parents have a 50/50 chance of developing the disease themselves. The only way to predict whether this will occur or not is through genetic testing.

Contrary to many popular myths about 'genetic diseases' like the so called 'obesity gene' or 'cancer gene', this disease is one of the very few diseases that is actually caused by a very specific genetic abnormality that causes the body to produce self-destructive toxins in certain regions of the body.

dnaThe genetic test looks for a certain mutation on Chromosome 4. On chromosome 4, there is a gene that contains the instructions for the production of a protein called Huntingtin that helps direct certain molecules out of a cell. This gene contains a three-letter code CAG that is repeated a certain number of times. For normal people, it's repeated anywhere from 10-26 times. When the number of repeats goes higher than 26, the risk of developing Huntington's Disease (HD) increases. Once the repeats are greater than 40, it almost 100% certain that you will develop HD between the ages of 35 and 45. Some people develop it sooner, others later, but for the majority of cases this is the window in which symptoms first appear: sporadic involuntary jerks or spasms, decreased coordination, impaired cognitive function are the most common.

Once the diagnosis is made, the person's nervous system gradually degrades until they are effectively disabled. They eventually lose the ability to walk, talk, or think clearly. The rate of suicide is significantly higher out of fear of the impending disability and incoherence, as well as the suffering and burden placed on loved ones and family members.

But all is not doom and gloom and there is hope. Though some may consider it anecdotal, we at the center currently have a Huntington's case that is doing extremely well. While most victims of the disease become completely disabled within 10 years, our client was diagnosed 10 years ago and still has all of his mental faculties, and still has enough balance and coordination to run mountains. This was accomplished without medication. This degree of function and delayed degeneration is unheard of. A comparison of typical Huntington's progression and lifestyle are necessary for appreciating his achievement, as well as gaining perhaps some insight into how others might follow in his footsteps.

Most HD victims tend to become sheltered by family members and caretakers, meaning they are confined and restrained from performing activities which require balance and coordination in order to protect them from injury or strain. They tend to rely on medications similar to those or Parkinson's and epileptics. They also tend to emotionally unstable for obvious reasons. Also, it is not uncommon for the family to transfer the HD victim to a long-term care facility in order to reduce the workload and burden on the family.

Jim, our client, differed from this norm in many distinctive ways. The most important attribute to mention is luck. He was lucky to have an extremely devoted wife who became his primary caregiver. It is safe to say that without her, he would have easily degenerated in the traditional rate. Instead of allowing him to deteriorate, she reasoned that if she allowed him to be inactive, his musculature would atrophy and he would lose his functions faster. She forced him to exercise vigorously everyday and this is perhaps the primary reason why he can still run 10 years after his diagnosis.

Also, he did several of our detox programs including the BodyKlar program and the heavy metal chelation. He is also on an extensive nutrient supplement program that includes large amounts of B vitamins, namely B1 in the form of Benfotiamine, as well as folic acid and niacinamide and he is also doing B12 injections. He is also taking large amounts of antioxidants like glutathione, n-acetyl cysteine, also vitamin and minerals to help improve his capacity to exercise.

To hear Jim's story in much greater depth, check out our video documenting his success: Rising Above Huntington's Disease: The Story of Jim and Monica

What Jim and his wife have accomplished is evidence that genes do not convey inevitability. There is a force greater than the genome and that is the epigenome, the environmental and lifestyle factors that interact with our genes and produce physiological responses we call 'life'. Controlling the epigenetic factors, we can supersede our genetic fate.

According to various statistics, it is estimated that only 5% of the people who possess the genetic risk of developing HD actually take the genetic test to find out if they will develop the disease. Privacy and insurance issues aside, understanding your body and having early prediction and early warning of any condition increases your capability of reducing your risk or reducing its impact on your life. Jim was lucky, he knew the condition ran in his family. His mother, uncle, and grandmother all had HD, yet he didn't get tested until he was almost 40 and had been showing the early symptoms for almost 3 years. Despite this, he and his wife still managed to keep him in amazing shape and keep the worst of the condition at bay.

Even more hope is on the horizon. Animal trials of a new type of medication called "antisense oligonucleotides" or ASOs, targets the mutant gene, binds to it, and destroys the gene's molecular instructions that cause it to make the toxic huntingtin protein which breaks down nerve cells. In mice and primates, these medications have, with a single injection, provided up to two months of completely normal function. The results are so promising that human trials are being planned within the next two years.

It could be that within the next five or ten years, an actual cure for this terrible disease might actually become available. We are determined to help Jim, as well as all of the other victims of this disease, increase their chances of surviving to that wonderful day.