Researchers said Thursday they have found a gene that helps cause Tourette’s Syndrome, but that many other genes are also likely to be involved in the complex disorder.
Tourette’s may affect as many as one in 100 people and is marked by muscle and vocal tics including repeated sudden movements or vocalizations. Children with Tourette’s also often have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression.
In a report published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, Dr. Matthew State of the Yale University School of Medicine and colleagues at several other institutions said a gene called SLITRK1 appears to contribute to some cases of Tourette’s.
“This finding could provide an important clue in understanding Tourette’s on a molecular and cellular level,” State said in a statement.
“Confirming this in even a small number of additional TS patients will pave the way for a deeper understanding of the disease process.”
State and colleagues looked for unusual patients with a clear genetic anomaly.
They found a boy who was the only member of his family with Tourette’s, and who had a gene inversion on chromosome 13. A gene inversion occurs when a section of chromosome appears to have broken off and flipped before being reinserted.
Looking at the ends of this section, the researchers found one gene, called SLITRK1, that is active in brain cells and is associated with the growth and interconnection of neurons.
Then they screened 174 more people with Tourette’s, comparing their SLITRK1 gene to the version found in people who do not have the syndrome, and found a genetic mutation.
This one gene variation is unlikely to hold all the answers to Tourette’s, State said.
“I think there is general consensus at this point that there are likely to be multiple genes, likely interacting, and probably different sets of genes in different people, that contribute to TS,” he said.