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Learning disability genes found
A group of genes that cause learning disabilities in boys has been discovered in a survey of families known to have a history of mental impairment.
Scientists linked nine genes to poor brain development in young men after analysing the genetic makeup of more than 200 families. The findings could help in the development of screening programmes for couples that are at risk of passing on faulty genes to their children.
All of the abnormal genes found in the study were on the X chromosome, which boys always inherit from their mothers. Girls inherit two copies of the X chromosome, one from each parent.
Poor brain development causes learning disabilities in 2% to 3% of the population, but the problem is more prevalent in males. In women, a faulty gene on one X chromosome is counteracted by a healthy copy.
The team recruited 208 families for the study. The families were chosen because they had at least two related males who were affected by learning disorders.In the majority of cases, the men who took part in the study showed no other signs of developmental problems apart from their learning disability, according to a report in Nature Genetics.
Men who carry the faulty genes can only pass them on through their X chromosome to their daughters. These girls are unlikely to be affected themselves, but will be carriers and so at risk of passing them on to their own children.
"Although there is no obvious cure for these conditions, knowing more about the genes involved will lead to better screening and much more informed counselling," said Patrick Tarpey, a geneticist and lead author on the study.
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