Gene Discovery Set to Help With Mysterious Paralysis of Childhood

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[Source:  Science Daily]

Alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC) is a very rare disorder that causes paralysis that freezes one side of the body and then the other in devastating bouts that arise at unpredictable intervals. Seizures, learning disabilities and difficulty walking are common among patients with this diagnosis.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have now discovered that mutations in one gene cause the disease in the majority of patients with a diagnosis of AHC, and because of the root problem they discovered, a treatment may become possible.

The study was published online on July 29 in Nature Genetics.

AHC is almost always a sporadic disease, which means that typically no one else in the family has the disease, said Erin Heinzen, Ph.D., co-author of the study and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Section of Medical Genetics. “Knowing that we were looking for genetic mutations in children with this disease that were absent in the healthy parents, we carefully compared the genomes of seven AHC patients and their unaffected parents. When we found new mutations in all seven children in the same gene we knew we had found the cause of this disease.”

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