The first genetic risk factor for the neurological disease essential tremor has been identified, according to a study published online this week in Nature Genetics. The work may lead to new approaches for the treatment of the disease.
Essential tremor is a progressive neurological disease characterized by tremor of the arms and hands, which can impair writing, drinking, eating and other everyday activities. Although prevalence estimates vary, some studies suggest that it may occur in as may as 13% of individuals older than 65. Kari Stefansson and colleagues carry out a genome-wide association study of individuals with essential tremor, and report that a variant in the gene LINGO1 increases risk of the disease. LINGO1 is involved in cell-cell interactions in the nervous system, and is also known to regulate neuronal survival. The inhibition of LINGO1 activity has been shown to promote neuronal survival and improved function in animal models of other neurological diseases, and the authors suggest that it may be a promising approach to the treatment of essential tremor.