Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have identified a gene which, when it is faulty, could be responsible for some cases of dyslexia. Characterised by a difficulty in recognising and reading words, dyslexia is thought to affect 3-10 per cent of the population. The team first looked at one family with several dyslexic members, but later extended the study to include 20 Finnish families, with 58 dyslexic and 61 non-dyslexic members. They found that a gene dubbed DYXC1 was disrupted in affected members of several of the families, but the team stress that it is unlikely to be involved in all cases of the disorder. 'There is overwhelming evidence that dyslexia is a genetically complex condition', say the scientists, who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The newly identified DYXC1 gene makes protein used by brain cells in some way, but the team says more research is needed to find out exactly what it does. It does not resemble any other known proteins, but it might be involved in helping cells cope with stress, they say. 'Our results give unexpected new ideas about the biochemical events that occur in the brain when we read or write' said team leader Juha Kere.