Understanding the SCN2A mystery – therapeutic responses in a heterogeneous disease

Heterogeneity. The diversity of clinical presentations and responses to anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) has posed a major obstacle in developing strategies to treat patients with SCN2A-related epilepsies. While the literature provides multiple examples of single case reports with favorable responses to various AEDs, the broad range of disease presentations and known or presumed effects on channel function has made it extremely difficult to extrapolate findings from one patient to another. In a recent publication in Brain, we reviewed the largest cohort of patients with SCN2A-related neurodevelopmental disorders so far, including a subset of patients with detailed phenotypic data over time. With this data, we were able to find support for the hypothesis that age of seizure onset correlates with the functional effect of the mutations and the response to common anti-epileptic medications, taking a first step towards understanding the SCN2A mystery. Continue reading

Five things I learned about SCN2A in Chicago

SCN2A. Last Thursday, I hopped on a plane to Chicago to join the first FamilieSCN2a Foundation Conference. SCN2A, one of the most common genes in genetic epilepsies, has emerged as a gene with a broad range of phenotypes, which makes understanding this gene relatively complicated. I am very happy that the SCN2A community is currently coming together to provide a platform for patient initiatives and connections to clinicians and researchers. Here is my list of five things I learned about the genetic shape-shifter in Chicago. Continue reading

Three novel aspects about epilepsy gene panels

Gene panels. Epilepsy gene panels have emerged as the first line genetic test for most suspected genetic epilepsies. Gene panels for childhood epilepsies are among the most common genetic tests ordered in a pediatric setting. While the role of gene panel testing is well established, the ideal design of gene panels remains an ongoing issue. A recent publication in the Journal of Medical Genetics provides additional evidence for the role of gene panel analysis in patients with genetic epilepsies. There are three aspects of this study that are particularly noteworthy. Continue reading

SCN2A – this is what you need to know in 2015

SCN2A. The next gene on our list of epilepsy genes to review is SCN2A. Within less than three years, SCN2A has risen from a gene for a very rare benign familial epilepsy syndrome to one of the most prominent genes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders to date. Epilepsies due to SCN2A mutations can have a broad range of phenotypes that are still not fully understood. Here is our 2015 post on the gene that we refer to as the genetic shapeshifter. Continue reading

Here are 5 quick free web-based tools for gene interpretation

Exome rounds. Interpreting genetic variants is one of the main challenges in genomic medicine. Many people have perceived barriers to starting some of the variant analysis themselves, given that there is the widespread notion that this requires expert bioinformatics knowledge. However, this is somewhat a concept of the past. There are some beautiful and simple tools online that you can use for free. Here are my favorite web-based tools for variant interpretation. Continue reading

GABRB3, 15q dups, and CNVs from exomes

GABAergic. Let’s start out with a provocative statement. There is a single gene that may explain more cases of Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) and Infantile Spasms (IS) than you would expect, rivalling SCN1A for the most common gene found in this group of patients. It’s a gene that you are probably aware of but that you may think to be a very rare finding. In a recent publication in Annals of Neurology, the Epi4K consortium published their recent analysis of copy number variations that were derived from exome data. Combining de novo mutations and copy number variations points to GABRB3 as a major player in LGS and IS, explaining probably more than 2% of patients. Let’s find out about the twilight zone, strategies to obtain structural variants from exomes, and the re-emergence of the 15q duplication syndrome. Continue reading

Publications of the week: SCN8A, SYN1, ZDHHC9, and SCNM1

Power outage. This week’s publications of the week were conceptualized in complete darkness. A thunderstorm had hit the Philadelphia area on Tuesday, leading to widespread power outages in the region. I found myself in the strange position of being without power for a night, but with full strength cell phone reception and a completely charged laptop battery. Here is our post on the most relevant publications of the last few weeks, written in the calm of a dark night where the only sound around was the howling of our neighbor’s backup generator. Continue reading