Gene flaw causes small brain
Microcephaly, a disorder which leads to an abnormally small brain, has been traced in part to a flaw in a gene called WDR62 that plays a key role in the development of neurons, according to studies published yesterday by the journal Nature Genetics.
Microcephaly, signalled by a small head and receding forehead, can be extremely disabling, handicapping speech and motor functions. There is no cure.
The WDR62 abnormality is one of a range of suspected genetic links to microcephaly. The condition also has environmental causes, including foetal exposure to alcohol, drugs and viruses such as chicken pox and German measles.
The studies are headed by C Geoffrey Woods at Cambridge University and Christopher Walsh at the Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts.