SYDNEY, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Australian-led researchers on Thursday said they have identified new genes linked to the most severe type of childhood speech disorder, pointing to better medical intervention and targeted treatment for patients.
The study analyzed the genetic makeup of more than 30 affected children and young people, showing that variations in the genes likely explained the speech disorder apraxia in about one-third of them, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute said in a statement.
"Eight of the nine genes are critical in a process which turns specific language genes 'on' or 'off' by binding to nearby DNA," the institute's speech and language group leader Angela Morgan said.
"We found these eight genes are activated in the developing brain. This suggests there is at least one genetic network for apraxia, all with a similar function and expression pattern in the brain," she said.
The study is the largest of its kind in the world involving children with severe and persistent speech disorders, specifically apraxia, according to the institute. Children with apraxia fail to learn to speak clearly and combine sounds properly, with the timing and sequencing of their words also affected.
One in 1,000 children has apraxia and despite intensive investigation the genetic origins of the debilitating speech disorder have remained largely unexplained, until now, Morgan said.
The new genetic findings, which were published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, will help neuroscientists and speech pathologists develop more targeted treatments for children, she said.
"Apraxia is a distinctive, socially debilitating clinical disorder, and understanding its molecular basis is the first step towards identifying precision therapy approaches." Enditem