It is known that dyslexia runs in families, which leaves scientists with the tricky task of trying to find out how much is due to the environment and how much is due to basic genetics.
Dyslexia is a learning disability and is characterised by people having problems developing language and literacy skills. It is usually present at birth and its effects can last a lifetime.
That the brains of individuals are obviously affected in some way, has led scientists down the path of trying to find a basic genetic mechanism, or any genes that may be solely or partly to blame for the condition.
As many as a dozen genes could be involved and several have been identified so far. In some way they affect the wiring of the brain.
Dyslexia gene variant
In this new piece of research, scientists from the University of Oxford in the UK were looking at a specific genetic variant that had already been associated with dyslexia.
The gene goes by the catchy name of KIAA0319 and can be found on chromosome six. The Oxford scientists studied the basic genetics of a sequence of DNA called a haplotype, which included part of the key gene.
Then they looked for it several thousand people. They had access to the data from 6,000 children, aged between seven and nine. They were part of a long-term study known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
The researchers found that those with the specific KIAA0319 variant were more likely to perform poorly in tests of reading ability. It was only linked to this and not to IQ.
Although the effect was small, the scientists believe it is statistically significant.
It is thought that faults with the KIAA0319 gene lead to diminished protein production which somehow results in dyslexia.
Though several genes have been identified that could play a role in development of the condition, some of those results have been difficult to replicate.
Much remains unknown, but the next few years should surely see some clear answers emerge about the basic genetic mechanisms that lead to dyxlexia.