2/03/2006

Descendants of Abraham Lincoln Reveal History

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Minnesota have discovered a gene mutation in the descendants of Abraham Lincoln’s grandparents that suggests the Civil War president himself might have also suffered from a disease that destroys nerve cells in the cerebellum-- the part of the brain that controls movement. A report on this discovery will appear in the February print issue of Nature Genetics.

The present discovery in Lincoln’s descendants of the gene that causes a movement disorder called spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 (SCA5.

The joint finding of the SCA5 mutation comes over a decade after initial speculation that Lincoln might have suffered from Marfan disease. People with this inherited disorder are often tall and thin and can commonly have slender, tapering fingers.

The researchers discovered that SCA5 is caused by a mutation of the β-III spectrin gene SPTBN2, which disrupts the ability of certain nerves in the cerebellum to respond normally to incoming chemical signals.

The mutation was found in 90 of 299 of Lincoln's descendants showing symptoms of the disease and 35 who did not have symptoms.

DISCOVERY OF MUTATION IN BRAIN CELLS OF DESCENDANTS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN SUGGEST THE PRESIDENT SUFFERED FROM MOVEMENT DISORDER

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