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ADHD Genes Found; Known to Play Roles in Neurodevelopment
Date:6/23/2009

-- Missing DNA Segments May Suggest Future Drug Targets --

PHILADELPHIA, June 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pediatric researchers have identified hundreds of gene variations that occur more frequently in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than in children without ADHD. Many of those genes were already known to be important for learning, behavior, brain function and neurodevelopment, but had not been previously associated with ADHD.

"Because the gene alterations we found are involved in the development of the nervous system, they may eventually guide researchers to better targets in designing early intervention for children with ADHD," said lead author Josephine Elia, M.D., a psychiatrist and ADHD expert at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The study appeared online today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Unlike changes to single DNA bases, called SNPs or "snips," the alterations examined in the current study are broader changes in structure. Called copy number variations (CNVs), they are missing or repeated stretches of DNA. CNVs have recently been found to play significant roles in many diseases, including autism and schizophrenia Everyone has CNVs in their DNA, but not all of the variations occur in locations that affect the function of a gene. The current study is the first to investigate the role of CNVs in ADHD.

Individually, each CNV may be rare, but taken together, a combination of changes in crucial regions may interact to raise an individual's risk for a specific disease. "When we began this study in 2003, we expected to find a handful of genes that predispose a child to ADHD," said study co-leader Peter S. White, Ph.D., a molecular geneticist and director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Children's Hospital. "Instead, there may be hundreds of genes involved, only some of which are changed in each person.
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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