An international research team led by Drs. Berge Minassian and Stephen Scherer of The Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) and the University of Toronto (U of T) has identified a gene responsible for the most severe form of teenage-onset epilepsy, known as Lafora disease (LD). The discovery is reported in the September issue of the scientific journal Nature Genetics.
"Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting over 40 million people worldwide," said Dr. Berge Minassian, one of the studys senior authors, an HSC neurologist and scientist, and an assistant professor in the Department of Paediatrics at U of T. "Lafora disease is one form of epilepsy that occurs during early adolescence and is characterized by seizures and progressive neurological degeneration. Death usually occurs within a decade of the first symptoms."
Fifty years of investigation led doctors to suspect that Lafora disease was caused by problems with carbohydrate metabolism in the brain. Beyond this, however, the fundamental defect triggering the malfunction was unknown. In 1998, the HSC team identified the first gene implicated in Lafora disease, called EPM2A.
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