University of Michigan researchers have discovered a new cause of congenital myopathy: a mutation in a previously uncharacterized gene, according to research published this month in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
About 50% of congenital myopathy cases currently do not have a known genetic basis, presenting a clear barrier to understanding disease and developing therapy, says James Dowling, M.D., Ph.D., the paper's co-senior author and assistant professor of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Finding a new myopathy gene opens the possibility of providing a genetic explanation for disease in these individuals where no genetic cause is currently known.
In addition, "the identification of a new myopathy gene is an essential first step towards understanding why this disease occurs and how we combat its effects." says Dowling, who worked with Margit Burmeister, Ph.D. and her team from the University of Michigan's Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute to study the new myopathy gene (CCDC78).
Dowling says the gene, which has not been studied previously, is an important potential regulator of muscle function and, in particular, part of an important muscle structure called the triad.
"Many myopathies and dystrophies have abnormal triad structure/function, so finding a new gene product involved in its regulation will help researchers better understand the triad and its relationship to muscle disease," Dowling says.
Congenital myopathies are clinically and genetically heterogeneous diseases that typically become evident in childhood with hypotonia and weakness. They are associated with impaired mobility, progressive scoliosis, chronic respiratory failure and often early death.