Stuttering May Have Genetic Roots, Study Suggests

Drayna said one reason the gene study may have more immediate application to people who stutter is because the pathway that appears to be involved is one that involves enzymes, a protein produced by the body, and therefore one that can sometimes be treated by making the enzyme artificially.

However, he said, because this gene likely affects areas of the brain, pharmaceutical therapies -- assuming they can be made -- would take time to develop, because it is notoriously difficult to deliver certain drugs into the brain.

"It's sort of a wild concept at this point," said Drayna.

Genetics Loads The Gun...

What makes the findings of the study even more interesting is that not everyone who had the stuttering gene, in fact, stuttered.

"In all cases, they were female," Drayna said, noting that females seem to overcome stuttering more easily than males.

"One possibility that we're putting forward is that these individuals may have stuttered as young children, and now that's been forgotten," he said. "It's certainly possible there are people walking around who carry stuttering gene mutations who don't stutter."

Drayna said some were disappointed that the current finding only applies to a small percentage of cases of stuttering with familial origins.

"People have speculated about the cause of this disorder for 4,000 years; at this stage we'd be happy to have one cause," he said.

But hopefully, other causes will be found soon.

"Just hold on, we'll have more for you in the future," said Drayna.

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