(SALT LAKE CITY)Alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC) is a rare disorder that usually begins in infancy, with intermittent episodes of paralysis and stiffness, first affecting one side of the body, then the other. Symptoms mysteriously appear and disappear, again and again, and affected children often experience dozens of episodes per week. As they get older, children fall progressively behind their peers in both intellectual abilities and motor skills, and more than half develop epilepsy. Unfortunately, medications that work for epilepsy have been unsuccessful in controlling the recurrent attacks of paralysis, leaving parents and physicians with few options, and significantly disabling those affected.
Researchers at the University of Utah Departments of Neurology and Human Genetics, in collaboration with researchers at Duke University Medical Center, have discovered that mutations in the ATP1A3 gene cause the disease in the majority of patients with a diagnosis of AHC. The study was published online on Sunday, July 29, 2012, in Nature Genetics.
In a collaborative effort with the AHC Foundation, Kathryn J. Swoboda, M.D., co-first author on the study, associate professor of neurology and pediatrics, and director of the Pediatric Motor Disorders Research Program at the University of Utah, established an international database of patients with AHC from around the world, starting with a single family nearly 14 years ago. This database now includes 200 affected individuals from more than a dozen countries. Access to clinical information and DNA samples from this database were critical to the success of the international collaboration that helped to identify the first gene causing AHC in a significant percentage of patients.
"AHC is almost always a sporadic disease, which means that there is no family history of the disorder," says Tara Newcomb, genetic counselor, University of Utah Department of Neurology, and a co-author of t
|Contact: Phil Sahm|
University of Utah Health Sciences