Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study on origin of mutation that causes Fatal Familiar Insomnia

A PhD thesis at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) has studied the origin of the mutation that causes Fatal Familiar Insomnia (FFI). In the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country there is a high rate of carriers of this mutation — 50%of all the cases registered in the whole of Spain.

Fatal Familiar Insomnia (FFI) is one of the diseases considered as rare — there are less than 100 cases described throughout the world. FFI prevents the patient getting to sleep to the point where she or he cannot ever sleep and which, after a number of months thus, causes death. ILF is a genetic illness caused by the D178N mutation and belonging to the group of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encefalopathies (TSE).

The author of the PhD is Ms Ana Belén Rodríguez Martínez, who presented her thesis with the title, Fatal Familiar Insomnia in the Basque Country: the search for the founding effect of mutation D178N (-129M) and the effects of oxidative stress on retrospective samples. Ms Rodríguez has a degree in Biology and currently works as an associate researcher on a Neiker-Tecnalia project. She carried out her research thesis under the direction of Dr. Marian Martínez de Pancorbo, Profesor of Cell Biology at the UPV/EHU Pharmacy Faculty and of Dr. Juan José Zarranz, Head of Neurology at Cruces Hospital and Professor of Neurology in the Faculty of Medicine and Odontology at the UPV/EHU.

The undertaking of this PhD thesis has been possible thanks to the collaboration by and participation of health researchers and professionals from various spheres, both national and international (The bodies and institutions referred to are detailed at the end of the paper).

Origin of the mutation

In 1996, following on from the outbreak of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob (“mad cow”) disease, the European Union launched systems for monitoring the prionic group of illnesses — the group to which FFI belongs. It was only then that the high rate of carriers of the mutation (D178N) responsible for FFI was detected in the Basque Country Autonomous Community (with 50% of all cases registered in Spain).

The area is characterised by its mountainous orography, and which has favoured cultural and genetic isolation. These features caused researchers to think that there might be a ‘founder effect’ of the mutation in the Basque Country — ‘founder effect’ is when a new population of individuals is formed from a very small number, with a large proportion thereof carrying the same genetic characteristics.

Given this situation, three targets were set: to look for the possible founder effect of the D178N mutation amongst patients in the Basque Country; establish relations between carriers in the Basque Country with other cases in Spain and Europe; and fix the historical time of the most recent common ancestor.

Same genetic families

After studying cases of FFI in the Basque Country, the researcher observed that genetic families amongst the patients coincided with each other. She concluded, thus, that the high rate of the disorder is due to a ‘founder effect’ of the mutation in this geographical area. Moreover, genealogical data link most of the cases and fix the oldest mutation carrier generations in an area in the south of the Basque Country in the XVII and XVIII centuries.

In comparison with other regions, Dr. Rodríguez concluded that links can be established between cases in Germany and those of the Italian Veneto region, on the one hand; between Italians of Tuscany and some Spanish cases, on the other; and that not all Spanish cases have the same origin. On estimating the age of the most recent common ancestor, they were able to calculate that two of these variants of the mutation arose over 2,000 years ago.

Bodies and institutions collaborating:

The Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (CAPV)
- Epidemiological Monitoring System of the CAPV.
- Neurology Service and the Pathological Anatomy Service at Txagorritxu Hospital in Araba.
- Neurology Service, Santiago Hospital, Araba.
- Neurology Service, Cruces Hospital, Bizkaia.
- Neurology Service, Basurto Hospital, Bizkaia.
State (Spain)
- Carlos III Health Institute, Madrid.
- Immunology Service of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Biodiagnostic Unit at the Unit for Alzheimer Disease and Other Cognitive Disorders of the Hospital Clinic (Barcelona).
- Victor Segalen University, Bordeaux 2, France.
- National TSE Reference Centre, Göttingen, Germany.
- Department of Neurological Sciences, Bologna University, Italy.

Lucía Álvarez | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Sweetening neurotransmitter receptors and other neuronal proteins
28.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung

nachricht A new look at thyroid diseases
28.10.2016 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>