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BALTIMORE -- 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 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 identification of the Marfan gene at Hopkins (Nature 352, 279-81 ) sparked debate concerning testing of President Lincoln's DNA to determine whether his tall stature could have been caused by that disease.
The present discovery in Lincoln's descendants of the gene that causes a movement disorder called …