Precocious puberty mystery revealed; Mutated gene held responsible

Precocious puberty, or an early onset of puberty, may be caused due to a gene mutation, a new study has found. Scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital and The University of Sao Paulo have discovered that a single gene, which is passed down into families, may be responsible for early puberty in kids.

Researchers claim that when this gene undergoes mutation, it leads to an early onset of puberty - before the age of 8 in girls, and 9 in boys.

The study, which included a close analysis of 40 individuals from 15 different families who had a history of precocious puberty, revealed that the mutation occurs in the MKRN3 gene.

 This mutation may trigger the release of developmental hormones, much earlier than the age of puberty.

The research also further revealed that these mutations may be passed down into generations through fathers only. Testing kids for this particular gene mutation "may help in the diagnosis, preventing the use of extensive testing and procedures such as MRI of the head," Dr Patricia Vuguin, pediatric endocrinologist at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, explained.

Early diagnosis may help both - children and parents - better cope up the condition, and take up new initiatives to handle the situation.

Further studies may also open doors for developing new treatments to treat precocious puberty, and other physical problems that accompany it. "The diagnosis will also help understand the role of this gene and other associated genes on how and when kids go into puberty, an area that is currently not clear," Vuguin added.

Co-author of the study, Dr Ursula Kaiser, further commented in a press release, "These findings will open the door for a new understanding of what controls the timing of puberty." 

The study has been published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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