Health Medical

Scientists identify 42 genes linked to dyslexia


HQ Team

October 27, 2022: Dyslexia, also known as a reading disability, is a result of individual differences in areas of the brain that process language. Symptoms include difficulty in reading and spelling. There’s no known way to correct the underlying brain differences that cause dyslexia. 

Studies have found heritability to be 70 per cent responsible, but which genes cause it has not been determined yet.

A latest genome-wide association study on dyslexia conducted on nearly 50000 dyslexics has helped scientists pinpoint about 170 genes and 42 specific genetic variants significantly associated with dyslexia. The findings were published in Nature Genetics.

“We can follow up the significant genes to see what their function is and how it might relate to the cognitive processes involved in reading and spelling,” lead researcher Michelle Luciano, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said in an interview to The Guardian . “At the moment, there are no direct implications for people with dyslexia, although it helps them understand that the condition has very complex causes.”

42 genetic variations

The researchers studied data from 51,800 adults with self-reported dyslexia and more than one million without it. Most participants were of European origin and were selected from 23andMe, a DNA testing and ancestry service.

Of the 42 genetic variations, 15 were previously linked with thinking skills, academic achievements or other neurodevelopmental conditions such as language delay, according to a statement from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Twenty seven were completely new and not associated with any related cognitive trait. 

Luciano said genes alone do not necessarily cause dyslexia but are more likely to cause dyslexia if combined with certain environmental factors, such as learning styles.

“When people think of genetics, the first thing they might think is that it’s something that’s fixed, and we know that that’s simply not the case,” Luciano said. “Genes operate within environments, so the environment is really important to consider.”

The researchers also found a genetic overlap between self-reported ambidexterity and dyslexia. They found a “moderate genetic correlation” between dyslexia and ADHD, per the study.

While much more research is required, the findings could lead to a better understanding of genes linked to dyslexia and help in identifying people more prone to the disorder, says Luciano. She adds that diagnosing tools can be improved for early treatment and mitigate further learning difficulties.

In a world of approximately 7.8 billion people, roughly at least 780 million (780,000,000) could be dyslexic. In simpler terms, one in 10 people is likely to be dyslexic. Somewhere between 25-40% of children with dyslexia also have ADHD, and conversely, approximately 25% of children with ADHD also have dyslexia

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