(Ivanhoe Newswire)–Truffle hunting dogs may be the answer in treating benign childhood epilepsies. Professor Hannes Lohi and his research group at the University of Helsinki and the Folkhalsan Research Center may have discovered a new candidate gene for human childhood epilepsies characterized by seizure emission. Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which an individual has repeated convulsions over time as a result of disturbed brain activity. This disease occurs when permanent changes in the brain tissue cause the brain to be overly excitable, causing it to send out abnormal signals.
Epilepsy is the most common neurological disease in children and occurs in o.5 percent of all 2-10 year old children when they are developing nerves in their brain. This new gene discovery gives an alternative perspective into the development of a child’s brain and the remission mechanisms in childhood epilepsies. The new epilepsy gene is known as LG12 and has been found in the Lagotto Romagnolo dog. Every third Lagotto Romagnolo carries the gene mutation in its genome and researchers have developed a gene test to be used by breeders to eliminate the disease from the breed. This study reveals the first time the gene has been linked to human epilepsies, providing hope for curing this disease in children.
Through the study, insight was gained into the pathways that control the development of a child’s brain and open avenues of research in uncovering the molecular bases of transformation of the brain from infancy to adolescence to early adulthood. In this study, the mutations in about 40 different breeds and in dogs with an early age onset of epilepsy were tested but only present in Lagottos. The study also revealed another form of epilepsy in the breed unconnected with the mutation, but this research group has built a large canine DNA bank in Finland with over 35,000 samples from 250 breeds and plays an important role in present and ongoing studies.
SOURCE: PLoS Genetics, July 28th, 2011