New findings discovered by researchers at Yale School of Medicine, US has revealed that a rare genetic mutation could be the cause of tics and other abnormalities associated with Tourette’s syndrome.
Published in the journal Neuron, the study follows on from research carried out in 2010 at Yale which showed that a family with nine members suffering from Tourette’s carried a mutation in a gene called HDC that disrupts the production of histamine in the brain.
Although the latest research only stems from one family, if the mutated gene is found in other patients it would raise the possibility that existing drugs, designed to target histamine receptors in the brain, will someday help to treat all Tourette sufferers.
Tourette’s syndrome afflicts up to 1% of children, and a smaller percentage of adults, and it is a condition that is 90% genetic.
Although histamine is commonly associated with allergy relief, it also plays an important role as a signalling molecule in the brain. Many medications have been developed that target brain-specific histamine receptors in an effort to treat conditions such as schizophrenia and ADHD. While not yet approved for general use, these drugs are thought to be highly beneficial in treating the symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome.
Christopher Pittenger, associate professor in the psychiatry and psychology departments in the Yale Study Centre, and senior author of the paper published on the study, said:
“Now there are two genetic studies that looked at many people with Tourette and found other abnormalities in the histamine system. This mutation is extremely rare, but histamine abnormalities in general are less rare.”
Referring to the latest research he added:
“These findings give us a new window into what’s going on in the brain in people with Tourettes. That’s likely to lead us to new treatments.”