Seth Mnookinâ€™s long piece in the New Yorker, on how social media accelerated the diagnosis of several children with a rare genetic disorder, is getting a lot of praiseÂ this week.Â This is the same story that was on CNN.com in March, titled â€œKids who donâ€™t cryâ€, and that Emory Genetics Laboratory director Madhuri Hedge mentioned as a recent diagnostic success for the technique of whole exome sequencing.
Briefly: parents of or doctors treating several children with a previously unknown metabolic disorder, with multiple symptoms — absent tear production, developmental delay, movement deficits, digestiveÂ problems etc — found each other via Internet searches/blog posts. The problems were traced back to mutations in the NGLY1 gene.
Emory geneticists Michael Gambello, Melanie Jones (now at the Greenwood Genetic Center in South Carolina) and Hegde are co-authors on the Genetics in Medicine paper that lays everything out scientifically.
Gambello, Jones and HegdeÂ were responsible for sequencing the DNA of a North Georgia family (they live inÂ Jackson County), whose members are mentioned in Mnookinâ€™s piece. The Gambello lab is developing an animal model of NGLY1 deficiency and is studying the mechanisms of how NGLY1 deficiency affects brain development.