US researchers said yesterday they had identified a gene that could be involved in Tourette's syndrome. Scientists at Yale University's school of medicine, writing in the journal Science said that although other genes and other factors probably also come into play, they had good evidence that a gene called SLITRK1 is at least partly responsible for the condition.
Research leader Dr Matthew State says the work began with a boy who was the only person in his family to have Tourette's syndrome, Reuters reports.
DNA analysis revealed that he had a so-called genetic inversion on chromosome 13. As the name suggests, this means a particular gene had broken off, inverted itself, and then reattached itself to the chromosome.
The SLITRK1 gene is found on the end of this inverted section. It plays a key role in brain development, particularly in the interconnection of neurons.
Having identified a possible genetic culprit, State and his team could then compare this gene in Tourette's sufferers with the same gene in those without the condition, looking for a mutation.
DNA tests on 174 Tourette's patients revealed that their version of the SLITRK1 gene is indeed a mutant.
State issued a statement saying: "This finding could provide an important clue in understanding Tourette's on a molecular and cellular level. Confirming this in even a small number of additional TS patients will pave the way for a deeper understanding of the disease process."
Tourette's syndrome generally begins in childhood or adolescence and is characterised by motor and vocal tics - involuntary movements and outbursts. Many Tourette's patients also suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, or attention deficit disorder. ®