Genetic Studies Gain Ground

Summer 2004

With the publication of a study in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, understanding of the genetic causes of stuttering has moved one step forward.

The report, entitled "Results of a Genome-wide Linkage Scan for Stuttering," demonstrates that a gene on chromosome 18 in humans can have a strong effect on the development of persistent stuttering. While the gene itself has not been identified, this study demonstrates that inherited factors in stuttering are significant enough that it's possible to identify specific genetic factors.

"While we have a way to go before we can identify this gene, we are encouraged that progress is being made," said Dennis Drayna, Ph.D., senior author of the study. Dr. Drayna is pursuing his studies at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD.

While his recent study involved more than 50 families from across North America, Drayna is pursing additional studies elsewhere in the world. A previous article in the SFA News documented one family under study in Cameroon, West Africa, and recent efforts have taken Drayna to Pakistan, where the high number of cousin marriages present particularly favorable conditions for genetic studies of stuttering.

Drayna cautions people not to expect quick cures from this research."Our goal is to use genetic studies to understand at least some of the underlying causes of stuttering. While not all stuttering is genetic in nature, we look forward to unraveling this part of the puzzle of stuttering, which will hopefully lead to better treatments in the future," he notes.