Taipei, Sept. 12 (CNA) A Taiwanese medical team said Wednesday it has made a breakthrough in identifying a gene that causes a degenerative disorder of the nervous system.
The findings could lead to new medical treatments for the genetic disease, known as cerebellar atrophy type 22, the team of researchers from Taipei Veterans General Hospital and National Yang-Ming University said at a press conference.
"We're happy to make the discovery" of a gene that causes that particular type of cerebellar atrophy, hospital doctor Soong Bing-wen said.
The team is now conducting further research on cells and animals with the aim of finding a medical cure for the disease, he said.
Cerebellar atrophy usually causes unsteadiness and lack of coordination in the movements of patients. Walking usually becomes difficult as the disease progresses.
One of the people involved in the study by the Taiwanese researchers is an 82-year-old man who began having trouble walking at the age of 45. He also began losing his ability to speak clearly and would often choke on his drinks.
About 10 of his relatives also have balance problems and have gradually developed other symptoms related to the disease. They had consulted many doctors but could not find the cause of the problem.
After he sought medical attention at Taipei Veterans General Hospital about a decade ago, the man said his condition was brought under control.
At present, Soong said, there are more than 40 known types of cerebellar atrophy. However, in more than 30 percent of the cases, the cause of the disease cannot been identified.
The incidence of cerebellar atrophy worldwide is five to 10 people out of every 100,000, he added.
The findings of the Taiwanese researchers were published in the Annals of Neurology journal July 23.
(By Elaine Hou)