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Rare disease in Amish children sheds light on common neurological disorders
Date:5/11/2010

E.

"It is quite compelling that TSC, a relatively common disorder, and PMSE, a rare disorder, are linked by a common cellular pathway, and exhibit similar severe neurological features," notes Crino. "In our study, we found that we could reverse some of the cellular features that result from STRAD-alpha deficiency in cell culture models of PMSE. This provides important conceptual support for more widespread treatment approaches that modify mTOR signaling in neurological disorders associated with epilepsy, autism, and cognitive disability."

Current estimates place tuberous sclerosis complex-affected births at one in 6,000. Nearly 1 million people worldwide are known to have TSC, with approximately 50,000 in the United States.

PMSE, on the other had, has only been described in 25 people in Lancaster County, PA. It's incidence among other Amish populations, let alone the rest of the country, is unknown. PMSE is also known as pretzel syndrome in the Amish community, because the lax joints of patients fold over easily. PMSE was identified in an Amish, or Old Order Mennonite pediatric population in 2007 by researchers from Penn and the Clinic for Special Children in Lancaster, PA, a genetic clinic devoted to the needs of the Amish.

The mTOR pathway normally controls cell growth, but in PMSE uncontrolled mTOR signaling leads to increases in brain size and areas in which the cerebral cortex is malformed. To prove this, the researchers knocked down the activity of the STRAD-alpha protein in a mouse model and caused malformations of the developing brain. The structure of these malformations was similar to what is seen in human PMSE and TSC and supports the conclusion that normal brain development in part depends on normal STRAD-alpha function. Localized brain malformations are among the most common causes of epilepsy and neurological disability in children.


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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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