Researchers at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have found that Lafora disease, an inherited form of epilepsy that results in death by the age of 30, can be caused by mutations in a gene that regulates the concentration of the protein laforin. These findings are reported in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Lafora disease is characterized by normal development for the first decade of life, followed by an initial seizure in the second decade, progressively worsening seizures, early dementia, and death within 10 years of onset. Medications can ease the severity of initial symptoms, but there is no long-term treatment or cure for the disease.
A puzzling aspect of the disease is the accumulation of starch-/glycogen-like granules in most tissues of Lafora disease patients. Thus, researchers have long thought that a defect in glycogen metabolism is intimately linked to the disease. Recessive mutations in two genes have been shown to cause Lafora disease. The genes encode the proteins laforin and malin, but the molecular mechanism defining how loss of laforin or malin causes Lafora disease has remained unclear.
Nancy Stringer | EurekAlert!
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