"This kind of discovery really brings home just what the human genome project and next-generation sequencing have made possible," said David Goldstein, Ph.D., Director of the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation and co-senior author on the study. "For a disease like this one with virtually no large families to study, it would have been very difficult to find the gene before next-generation sequencing."
"Ideally what you want from a study like this is a clear indication of how the mutations change protein function so you know how to screen for drugs that will restore normal function or compensate for the dysfunction," said Goldstein, who is also a Professor in Duke Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. "While there is considerably more work to do, our initial evaluation of the mutations suggests that they may alter the behavior of the transporter pump as opposed to reducing its activity, as do other mutations in the gene that cause a less severe neurological disease."
Co-senior author Mohamad Mikati, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and of Neurobiology, and Chief of Pediatric Neurology at Duke, said, "Many years ago my work with other collaborators on a family with this disease proved that AHC can be caused by genetic factors, but until now we did not know the underlying gene abnormality.
"The finding that ATP1A3 mutations cause AHC will increase awareness of the disease and the ability to accurately diagnose patients," Mikati said. "While it may take a while for novel drugs to be developed to better treat this disease, we will see an immediate impact through specific testing for mutations in this gene when we suspect a case of AHC. This direct testing will prevent misdiagnoses that too often have caused patients to be treated with inappropriate medications."'/>"/>
|Contact: Mary Jane Gore|
Duke University Medical Center