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Neurological Disorder Gene Identified

University of Michigan research laboratory scientists have identified the gene responsible for one type of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder, a common inherited neurological disease, thanks to the chance appearance of a strain of impaired pale tremor mice .

The discovery of the gene mutation means a genetic test will be possible for people with a less common subtype of the disorder -- one that until now was unidentified and had an unknown genetic basis, says Miriam Meisler, senior author of the study.

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder, one of the most prevalent inherited neurological disorders, affects one in 2,500 people in the United States, usually beginning in youth or by mid-adulthood. It is actually a group of related disorders that affect the bodys peripheral nerves, with symptoms such as pain and.muscle weakness in the feet and legs that lead to foot deformities, tripping and difficulty walking.

The gene abnormalities responsible for 70 percent of cases are already known. Those patients and their families can choose to have genetic tests, which may be used to guide treatment or help family members find out if they are at risk.

But the remaining 30 percent of patients, who have different variants of the disease, have not had that option. Meisler, a professor of human genetics at the U-M Medical School, predicts the new discovery will quickly lead to a test that can diagnose which of those patients have the newly identified gene mutation.

These probably represent about 5 percent of the unexplained 30 percent of cases, preliminary testing suggests. With genetic knowledge, Family members can make decisions about reproduction, Meisler says of the discoverys implications. It also opens up directions for developing therapies. Now pharmacologists and drug developers can target this gene.

The genetic sleuthing that led to the discovery began when scientists in Meislers genetics lab noticed that s
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