Epilepsies are a biologically complex group of disorders comprising many discrete genetic entities, and the majority of recurrent seizure syndromes remain unexplained. Most, if not all, epileptic disorders can be traced to abnormalities of brain structure or chemistry that alter the electrical activity of nerve cell networks. The children in this study have autistic traits, also thought to be caused by disrupted nerve cell networks.
The finding, which is published in the March 30th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, describes the newly discovered disorder called cortical dysplasia-focal epilepsy syndrome (CDFE) in a group of closely related Old Order Amish children from Pennsylvania.
All affected children had relatively normal development until the onset of frequent intractable seizures in early childhood. Thereafter, they developed language regression and additional features of autism, possibly implicating this gene as a cause of autism in the general population. Physicians at the CSC isolated DNA from four of the affected children and their six parents and, in collaboration with TGen, identified a mutation in the gene that codes for a protein called CASPR2.
New GeneChip technologies for scanning the human genetic blueprint are powerful tools for rapidly identifying causes of disorders such as epilepsy in carefully selected families.
"The ability to rapidly decipher the genetic underpinnings of brain disorders through genetic technologies will allow the medical community to better understand disorders such as autism and epilepsy, and this understanding is the first step in developing effective treatments" said Dr. Dietrich Stephan, Director of the Ne
Contact: Amy Erickson
The Translational Genomics Research Institute