+ Handedness Gene May Be Dyslexia Clue

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From a BioNews.org article written by Maren Urner, we learn that researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford have identified a genetic link between handedness and reading difficulties.

The findings have been published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

When researchers performed a genome-wide association (GWAS) analysis for a quantitative measure of relative hand skill in individuals with dyslexia, they identified a region on the PCSK6 gene as the most highly associated marker.

Children with dyslexia who have a particular variant of the gene were — on average — more skilled with their right hand compared to the left than those without the variant.  And the same result occurred in two additional groups of children with reading difficulties.

The lead author of the study, Professor Anthony Monaco, says the results support the idea that “there is a link between handedness and language-related disorders.”

PCSK6, the gene studied, has not been linked to handedness before, although it is known to be involved in other biological functions.

In previous studies several genes have been linked to dyslexia.  However, the results published by Monaco and his colleagues are the first to provide molecular evidence that the well-known asymmetry between the two brain hemispheres related to handedness and dyslexia are linked.

Although handedness is a heritable trait, its genetic basis is not well understood. 

PCSK6 is known to influence early embryonic development, and these scientists believe its genetic variants might play a role during the initial left-right patterning of the developing embryo.  This patterning affects brain asymmetry and therefore handedness.

Future functional studies of PCSK6 might reveal mechanisms underlying lateralisation within the brain and dyslexia.

sole source: Maren Urner’s article at http://www.bionews.org.uk on 11/8/10.

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