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LOS ANGELES-  Researchers from UCLA and Massachusetts General Hospital led a study to identify the first two genetic mutations related to Tourette syndrome, helping scientists to better understand the nature of the disease. Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by chronic involuntary and repetitive movements and vocalizations. Unfortunately, there is no cure or medication to treat the symptoms of Tourette syndrome currently.

Previous research suggests Tourette syndrome is caused by genetic factors, therefore UCLA researchers tried to pinpoint the genetic mutations causing the disease through this study. The study was published June 21 and the researchers compared genetic data from those with and without Tourette syndrome. The results showed that people with the disease were more likely to have mutations in the neurodevelopmental genes, NRXN1 or CNTN6, which are responsible for the development of nerve cells and the connections between them.

Two of the study’s authors include Dr. Giovanni Coppola, the professor of psychiatry and neurology at UCLA, and bioinformatics doctoral student Alden Huang. They said identifying the genes that cause Tourette syndrome would allow them to focus on the nonfunctioning cells in the brain, leading to possible treatments for the disorder. The researchers added they plan to study the role of these genes in other neurological disorders common among those with Tourette syndrome, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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