Large scale genetic study into the causes of stammering is to be launched

Large scale genetic study into the causes of stammering is to be launched

A study of 1500 adults and children in the United Kingdom will aim to boost understanding of the genetic causes of stammering.

The study will be the largest of its kind and hopes to provide insight into why some people are more likely to develop a stammer than others. Researchers hope they can use the data to develop treatments that can target the causes of stammering rather than just the symptoms.

The research team will comprise researchers from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the Netherlands. The study will be made up of people aged five and over who have a history of stammering and will be submitted for genetic analysis. Stammering is estimated to affect one in 100 adults.

The study will be overseen by University College London (UCL) and will involve the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Griffith University and the University of Melbourne among others.

“Learning more about the genetic basis will help us identify who may be more likely to develop stammering,” said UCL Associate Professor Frederique Liegeois.

Genetics are likely to play a role in speech development

Stammering typically emerges in children between two and four years of age, shortly after they have learned to speak

“About 4% of children experience a phase during which they prolong words or get stuck trying to talk,” she said. Studies show that 8% of three-year-olds and 11% of four-year-olds stammer.” said WEHI and the University of Melbourne Professor Melanie Bahlo.

Although the genetic causes of stammering are unknown previous research has suggested that genetics may play a role in the condition. Researchers have identified four genes that may be linked to the condition

“Globally, 1% of adults stammer and nearly 70% of those who do report a family history of stammering. But even for people where the disorder doesn’t run in the family, genetics can still be playing a role,” according to Professor Angela Morgan of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne.

Males are more likely to be affected by stammering

“Gender is one of the strongest predisposing factors for stammering. Boys are two to five times more likely to stutter than girls and are also less likely to stop stammering without therapy,” she added.

“Many stammering treatments focus on symptoms only, without targeting the underlying causes. We hope this research will develop new therapies for those who want to access treatment to help better manage their stammer and learn to speak more easily.”

When taking part in the trial, participants will need to complete a ten-minute online survey. Participants who meet the criteria will be asked to provide a saliva sample, which will be used for DNA analysis.

Participants will be updated on a fortnightly basis via the study website and will be able to access updates through the study’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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