UK researchers have identified a gene linked to dyslexia, a disorder thought to affect around three to ten per cent of the population. The team, based at the University of Cardiff, studied 223 people with the disorder. Their results, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, show that certain versions of a gene called KIAA0319 increase the likelihood of having dyslexia.
Dyslexia is characterised by difficulty in recognising and reading words. Scientists think that a number of different genes and environmental factors combine to cause the disorder. The identification of the KIAA0319 gene represents the end of a long search by several teams of researchers worldwide. 'We need to find out how this gene functions and how it actually contributes to dyslexia', said team leader Julie Williams. She says that her team has preliminary evidence that other versions of the gene may be associated with particularly good reading skills. 'Perhaps it may also tell us how it contributes to the way we process language normally, which is one of the major puzzles for neuroscience today', she said.
Geneticist Anthony Monaco thinks that the KIAA0319 gene might influence the movement of cells during brain development. His group has also found evidence of alterations in or near the gene, in dyslexia patients from both the UK and US. 'It is exciting to be zeroing in on a gene for a trait as complex as this one is', he said.
The Cardiff researchers are now looking for new volunteers to take part in the study, says co-author Michael O'Donovan. 'To tackle the genetic origins of disorders like dyslexia, both quality of assessment and sample size are crucial. We have the tools to take care of the latter but we are dependent on the altruism of the public in offering their time and DNA', he said. Families wishing to take part in the research should contact the Department of Psychological Medicine on 029 2074 3247.