American scientists say they have discovered an enigmatic new neurodegenerative disease, one that primarily affects grandfathers of boys with the most common form of mental retardation. The disorder - fragile X-associated tremor-ataxia syndrome - causes tremors, balance problems and dementia that become progressively more severe with age.
Randi Hagerman, medical director of the Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute at the University of California, Davis, said FXTAS (pronounced fax-tass) affects about one in every 800 men in the general population and that roughly one-third of them (about one in 3,000 men) will actually develop symptoms.
Almost all of the men are over the age of 50, and have at least one grandchild with fragile X syndrome, the most frequent cause of mental retardation in children. "FXTAS is an enigma," Dr. Hagerman said, reports &to=http://www.globeandmail.com' target=_blank>Globr and Mail