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Behind the tics of Tourette’s syndrome

Medicine@Yale, 2014 - July August

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In 2010 a Yale team discovered a shared mutation in the histidine decarboxylase (HDC) gene in nine members of a family with Tourette’s syndrome—a disorder characterized by repetitive motor and vocal tics. The mutation disrupted the production of the immune molecule histamine, the team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

New research published Jan. 8 in Neuron strongly implicates the mutation as being responsible for the family’s Tourette’s. A Yale team found that mice with the same mutation developed Tourette’s-like symptoms. Mice that had mutations in or lacked the gene exhibited repetitive movements, but when given supplemental histamine, their symptoms lessened.

“These findings give us a new window into what’s going on in the brain in people with Tourette’s,” said Christopher Pittenger, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and in the Child Study Center and senior author of the study. “That’s likely to lead us to new treatments,” Pittenger said.