Using a new, rapid and less expensive DNA sequencing strategy, scientists have discovered genetic alterations that account for most cases of Kabuki syndrome, a rare disorder that causes multiple birth defects and mental retardation. Instead of sequencing the entire human genome, the new approach sequences just the exome, the 1-2 percent of the human genome that contains protein-coding genes.
Kabuki syndrome, which has an estimated incidence of 1 in 32,000 births, was originally described by Japanese scientists in 1981. Patients with the disorder often have distinct facial features that resemble the make-up worn by actors of Kabuki, a Japanese theatrical form.
The work, published in today's advanced online edition of Nature Genetics, was carried out by scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle as part of a larger effort to use 'second generation' DNA sequencing technologies in new ways to identify genes for rare disorders. The project is funded by a $3.9 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
"It's clear from this work that new DNA sequencing technologies are powerful and effective tools that scientists can use to accelerate the discovery of genes involved in rare diseases, an effort that previously was slow and costly," said NHGRI Director Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D. "The potential to rapidly identify gene mutations causing more than 6,000 rare diseases is an important step forward for researchers who are trying to understand the biology of these conditions and thereby improve strategies to care for patients they affect."
The University of Washington researchers sequenced the exomes of 10 unrelated individuals with Kabuki syndrome. Beginning with the premise that Kabuki syndrome is caused by alterations in just a single gene, the researchers compared the exomes of the 10 patients to the human gen
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NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute