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Genetic link to reading ability

6 October 2008
Appeared in BioNews 478

Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University, UK, have identified a genetic variant that is linked to reading ability. The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, implicate a gene that could also be involved in dyslexia.

Dr Silvia Paracchini, lead author of the study, said that 'on average people carrying this common genetic variant tended to perform poorly on test of reading ability'. However, she added: 'It is important to note that this is only true for reading ability and not for IQ (Intelligence Quotient), so it doesn't appear to be connected to cognitive impairment'.

The researchers worked with 6,000 British children between the ages of six and nine, to discover the link between the genetic variation and reading ability. The children are taking part in a major long term study - the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Previously, several genes have been found that could have a link to dyslexia, but results have been unclear. One of the most likely candidates is a gene called KIAA0319, and this new study indicates that a variant of the KIAA0319 gene may reduce general reading ability in people without dyslexia.

The function of the KIAA0319 gene may be in the development of the brain of the fetus. Dr Paracchini explained: 'This is clearly only part of the jigsaw puzzle that explains why some people have poorer reading ability than others or develop dyslexia. There are likely to be many other contributing factors, but our research provides some valuable clues. We need to carry out studies into the exact role that this gene plays in brain development and how this affects people's reading ability'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Dyslexia gene discovery could improve treatment for millions
The Daily Mail |  1 October 2008
Gene link to poor reading skills
BBC News Online |  1 October 2008
Genetic change may explain reading difficulty: study
Reuters |  1 October 2008
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