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A pan-European study: Signs of motor disorders can appear years before disease manifestation
Date:5/22/2013

The scientists report these findings in the current online edition of "The Lancet Neurology". This pan-European study could open up new possibilities of early diagnosis and smooth the way for treatments which tackle diseases before the patient's nervous system is irreparably damaged.

"Spinocerebellar ataxias" comprise a group of genetic diseases of the cerebellum and other parts of the brain. Persons affected only have limited control of their muscles. They also suffer from balance disorders and impaired speech. The symptoms originate from mutations in the patient's genetic make-up. These cause nerve cells to become damaged and to die off. Such genetic defects are comparatively rare: it is estimated that about 3,000 people in Germany are affected.

It is known that there are various subtypes of these neurodegenerative diseases. The age at which the symptoms manifest consequently fluctuates between about 30 and 50. "Our aim was to find out whether specific signs can be recognized before a disease becomes obvious," says project leader Prof. Thomas Klockgether, Director for Clinical Research at the DZNE and Director of the Clinic for Neurology at Bonn University Hospital.

Pan-European cooperation

The study, which involved 14 research centers in all, focused on the four most common forms of spinocerebellar ataxia. These account for more than half of all cases. More than 250 siblings and children of patients throughout Europe declared their willingness to participate in appropriate tests. These individuals had no obvious symptoms of ataxia. However, about half of them had inherited the genetic defects which invariably cause the disease to manifest in the long term.

With the aid of a mathematical model that considered the genetic mutations and their effects, the scientists were able to estimate the time remaining until the disease could be expected to manifest. In the test group, this "time to onset" varied f
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Contact: Marcus Neitzert
marcus.neitzert@dzne.de
49-228-433-02271
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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