Heat at the synapse – STX1B mutations in fever-associated epilepsies

Febrile Seizures. The discovery of the genes for fever-associated epilepsies was one of the most relevant milestones in epilepsy genetics. Discovery of the underlying genes including SCN1A, SCN1B and GABRG2 was tightly linked to the development of the Genetic/Generalized Epilepsy with Febrile Seizures Plus (GEFS+) concept, describing the spectrum of epilepsy phenotypes seen in families with these mutations. Gene discovery in GEFS+, however, has slowed down in recent years, and no further causative genes had been identified for more than a decade. Now, in a recent paper in Nature Genetics, mutations in STX1B are found as a novel cause for fever-associated epilepsies. Continue reading

From zero to one hundred in the genetics of Febrile Seizures

Finally. Only a few months ago, we wondered what happened to the genetics of Febrile Seizures, given that there was a paucity of publications in this field. Now, a recent publication in Nature Genetics presents the first well-powered genome-wide association study in Febrile Seizures in almost 2,000 patients, including a large subgroup of patients with Febrile Seizures after MMR vaccinations. The authors provide compelling evidence for common variants in known epilepsy genes. However, the strongest genetic risk for Febrile Seizures is in a known disease gene that nobody expected. Continue reading

PURA mutations and when diverse phenotypes become a single syndrome

Reverse. With the increasing amount of genetic information available in patients with various neurodevelopmental syndromes, some genes will be observed more than once in patients. In a recent study in the Journal of Medical Genetics, the authors trace back the phenotypes of individuals carrying de novo mutations in PURA. However, there seems to be a wide range of clinical features with a seemingly inverse genotype-phenotype correlation. Continue reading

SETBP1, ZMYND11, and the power of joint exome and CNV analysis

Parallel worlds. There are two fields of genetics for neurodevelopmental disorders that currently produce large amounts of data – the field of copy number variation analysis and the field of exome sequencing. When assigning pathogenicity, information from both genetic technologies are rarely considered jointly. A recent study in Nature Genetics now performs a combined analysis of a large CNV and exome datasets in intellectual disability and autism. Interestingly, this method produces robust results, highlighting novel causative genes. Continue reading

The three challenges of epilepsy precision medicine

Half Moon Bay. I am on my way back from the Precision Medicine Workshop at Half Moon Bay, realizing again that blog posts from scientific meetings are often boring and difficult to write. However, let me try to put together a few thoughts about this meeting. Basically, there are three challenges for epilepsy genetics in the era of precision medicine. Continue reading

Dynamin 1, the synapse, and why epilepsy gene discovery is now officially over

E2 consortium. Infantile Spasms and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome are two epilepsy syndromes with a strong genetic component. De novo mutations play an important role in genetic epilepsies. However, given the overall mutational noise in the human genome, telling causative genes from innocent bystanders is difficult. In the largest and most comprehensive analysis so far, our E2 consortium just published a joint analysis of 356 patient-parent trios, which were analyzed by exome sequencing. In addition to implicating DNM1, GABBR2, FASN, and RYR3, this publication sends a clear message: the age of gene discovery in epilepsy is over – from now on, genes will find themselves. Let me tell you what I mean by this. Continue reading

Publications and thoughts of the week – SUMO, SENP2, and data return from exome studies

This week. Because I was traveling this week, I didn’t manage to put a blog post together for you. However, I wanted to catch up with recent publications in the field. Also, I wanted to point out a recent trend in the field – emerging interest and concern about data return from next-generation sequencing studies. However, let’s start with this week’s publications. Continue reading

The day I fell in love with Varbank

De novo. Three months ago, I performed a trio exome de novo analysis in a patient-parent trio. From my iPad, in a hotel room in Paris. When I got home a few days later, I was excited to tell my students that the analysis worked. They looked at me slightly confused: “What’s the big deal? We had the analysis complete already a week or so ago.” Last year at this time, I was proud that our lab had established a fully functional de novo analysis pipeline. Suddenly, it’s not a big deal anymore. What happened? Let me tell you about Varbank. Continue reading

Three reasons why exomes are like MRIs – and three reasons why they are not

Exome rounds. How will next-generation sequencing technologies impact on patient care in the future? What role will genetic analyses play in routine health care? Sometimes, the possible role of genetic information is compared to the role of MRI imaging, including the general expertise that is required of clinicians who apply these technologies but are not necessarily dedicated experts in the field. Here are three interesting parallels between exomes and MRI – and three examples how the impact of these technologies differs drastically. Continue reading