By Dennis Drayna, Ph.D.

From the Stuttering Foundation's winter 2008 newsletter

Research on genetic factors in stuttering moved ahead in November with meetings between researchers at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and scientists at the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) at the University of Punjab,  in Lahore, Pakistan.

The NIDCD team was led by Dr. Dennis Drayna, who met with university officials and Dr. S. Riazuddin, the director of the CEMB, to coordinate the identification and sampling of Pakistani families with multiple cases of stuttering.

Traditional marriage customs in Pakistan result in frequent marriages between cousins, giving the Pakistani population a relatively high degree of inbreeding.  Such inbreeding can bring out genetic disorders in families and make them more accessible for study by scientists. The NIDCD-/CEMB collaboration is further reinforced by the participation of Mr. Hashim Raza, a Ph.D. student enrolled at the University of Punjab, who is pursuing his thesis research on stuttering in Dr. Drayna’s laboratory at the NIDCD.

“Our previous stuttering research in Pakistan has made significant progress, and on this visit I had the chance to meet a number of our research subjects, which was wonderful. We also identified several new families in which there are many cases of stuttering, providing important resources for our future work,” said Dr. Drayna.

The overall goal of genetic research on stuttering is to identify the specific genetic alterations that give rise to stuttering in some families, to better understand the fundamental causes of the disorder. A better understanding of the causes of stuttering may lead to improved diagnosis and treatment, and provide new avenues for research in speech disorders.