Researchers discover an alternate form for the disease gene associated with Rett syndrome

For a related press release from the University of Toronto, click here.

Clinton, MD (March 22, 2004) - Researchers at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and their collaborators have identified a new form of the protein MECP2 which regulates the complex expression of Rett syndrome and other neurological disorders including autism, childhood schizophrenia and some forms of mental retardation. This discovery is being incorporated into a new molecular test that will aid not only the diagnosis of Rett syndrome, but also for other developmental disabilities. This research is reported in the April issue of the journal Nature Genetics (available online March 21, 2004).

"The previously identified gene MECP2 was only found in approximately 80% of Rett syndrome patients," said Dr. Berge Minassian, the study's principal investigator, a neurologist and scientist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. "Our discovery suggests that a defective alternate form of the MECP2 gene causes Rett syndrome."

While there are 3,000 known cases of Rett Syndrome in the United States which predominantly strikes only girls, the disorder is genetically linked to more widespread neurological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Rett symptoms begin to manifest between the first six to eighteen months of life and eventually incapacitates the afflicted children so that they cannot survive without constant care. The disorder causes seizures, respiratory and gastrointestinal abnormalities, and a variety of muscular and motor impairments.

"The tragedy of this disorder is that it strikes girls who are too young to comprehend what is happening, and leaves them trapped inside their own bodies," said actress Julia Roberts, who became close to a little girl stricken with Rett and has t

Contact: Susan Bro
International Rett Syndrome Association

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