Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Synapse Spring 2010 Genetics Research Benefits Children

Synapse Spring 2010 Genetics Research Benefits Children

Currently, Morris focuses her attention on finding the missing gene that leads to anxiety in Williams syndrome children. Once the gene that causes anxiety is identified, she said it can lead to more tailored treatment in the general population.

Working with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas biology department and its genetics core lab, Morris is able to use microarray technology to identify which genes are deleted or rearranged.

"We are sharing equipment and resources to advance research at both our institutions," she said. Morris and her team are able to look at the variation in each pair of chromosomes from a patient's mother and father, leading to new discoveries of genetic factors that influence Williams syndrome.

"Some individuals have very severe cardiovascular disease while others have only mild symptoms. We are trying to determine what genetic factors underlie the variability in order to find new ways to treat the manifestations of the condition. Discoveries regarding the underpinnings of arterial disease in Williams syndrome may have applicability to the treatment of arterial disease in the general population," said Morris.

While deletion of a portion of chromosome 7 leads to Williams syndrome, its duplication leads to a new syndrome called duplication of the Williams syndrome region, or "dup 7." The differences in children with these two related conditions are polar opposites: children with Williams syndrome are good with language abilities, but have poor fine motor skills while those with "dup 7" syndrome have good fine motor skills but poor speech and language skills.