Low IQ in children linked to gene


Researchers at Cardiff University have indicated that genetic screening could offer help for children who are at risk of the development of a low IQ.

A gene which puts the child at higher risk of developing a low IQ has been discovered by scientists. This means that babies who undergo a genetic test as soon after birth as possible may be identified as at risk. This could pave the way for the development of a treatment technique to eliminate the problem.

The scientists have found that children with a lower thyroid level and common gene variations were at least four times more at risk of developing an IQ below 85. Researchers collected thyroid function and genetic data from 3,123 children who had their IQ tested. They have found that the administration of thyroid hormone tablets may allow the children’s brains and their IQ to develop at a normal rate. This could offer help to around 30,000 children on an annual basis.

This new research study placed focus on the deiodonase-2 enzyme which is responsible for processing thyroid hormones in certain cells. A mutation in the enzyme’s gene coding has previously been linked to other health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The test results indicated that those children who had lower thyroid hormone levels only were not placed at higher risk of a low IQ.

Cardiff University’s Dr Peter Taylor has stated that if they undertake other studies which confirm their findings, it would be beneficial to carry out genetic testing for this particular gene variant, along with the normal neonatal thyroid tests. This will help them identify children who are at higher risk of developing a low IQ.

He further stated that children who had a satisfactory level of thyroid hormones, as well as the gene variant appear to have normal IQ levels. This means that children who are at high risk could be given standard thyroid hormone pills which will compensate for the impairment of the processing of the thyroid hormone.

This study, done in combination with the University of Bristol, will be presented at the Society for Endocrinology’s British Endocrine Societies conference due to take place in Liverpool.

Image credit: United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley


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