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Genetic cause for body tremors found


Montreal, QC – Essential Tremor (ET) is the most common movement disorder, becoming increasingly frequent with increasing age, which is characterized by an involuntary shaking movement (tremor) that occurs with motion, particularly when doing precise fine movement.

Researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine and CHUM hospitals have linked some cases of ET to a specific genetic problem.

Scientists already knew that mutations in a gene called FUS (Fused in Sarcoma) cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. The ET research team was successful in identifying mutations that cause ET in this gene, and they also proved that the disease mechanisms for ET and ALS FUS mutations are different. “When I started my post-doctoral work in the Rouleau laboratory, I felt compelled to study essential tremor. I saw a great opportunity to identify the first ET gene considering the plethora of families collected for study in the laboratory, and the availability of new sequencing technologies that has revolutionized gene discovery efforts,” said lead author Dr. Nancy Merner. “As a proof of principle study, we chose one family to sequence and took a simple approach to overcome particular clinical barriers that have hindered previous gene discovery attempts.”

The identification of FUS was performed in the Rouleau laboratory and supported by the Chaire Jeanne-et-J.-Louis-Lévesque en Génétique des Maladies du Cerveau de l’Université de Montréal. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research has also funded the pursuit for additional ET genes.

The study, “Exome sequencing identifies FUS mutations as a cause of essential tremor” was published in The American Journal of Human Genetics.