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1.  ‘Costa da Morte’ ataxia is spinocerebellar ataxia 36: clinical and genetic characterization 
Brain  2012;135(5):1423-1435.
Spinocerebellar ataxia 36 has been recently described in Japanese families as a new type of spinocerebellar ataxia with motor neuron signs. It is caused by a GGCCTG repeat expansion in intron 1 of NOP56. Family interview and document research allowed us to reconstruct two extensive, multigenerational kindreds stemming from the same village (Costa da Morte in Galicia, Spain), in the 17th century. We found the presence of the spinocerebellar ataxia 36 mutation co-segregating with disease in these families in whom we had previously identified an ∼0.8 Mb linkage region to chromosome 20 p. Subsequent screening revealed the NOP56 expansion in eight additional Galician ataxia kindreds. While normal alleles contain 5–14 hexanucleotide repeats, expanded alleles range from ∼650 to 2500 repeats, within a shared haplotype. Further expansion of repeat size was frequent, especially upon paternal transmission, while instances of allele contraction were observed in maternal transmissions. We found a total of 63 individuals carrying the mutation, 44 of whom were confirmed to be clinically affected; over 400 people are at risk. We describe here the detailed clinical picture, consisting of a late-onset, slowly progressive cerebellar syndrome with variable eye movement abnormalities and sensorineural hearing loss. There were signs of denervation in the tongue, as well as mild pyramidal signs, but otherwise no signs of classical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Magnetic resonance imaging findings were consistent with the clinical course, showing atrophy of the cerebellar vermis in initial stages, later evolving to a pattern of olivo-ponto-cerebellar atrophy. We estimated the origin of the founder mutation in Galicia to have occurred ∼1275 years ago. Out of 160 Galician families with spinocerebellar ataxia, 10 (6.3%) were found to have spinocerebellar ataxia 36, while 15 (9.4%) showed other of the routinely tested dominant spinocerebellar ataxia types. Spinocerebellar ataxia 36 is thus, so far, the most frequent dominant spinocerebellar ataxia in this region, which may have implications for American countries associated with traditional Spanish emigration.
PMCID: PMC3338928  PMID: 22492559
spinocerebellar ataxia; NOP56; expansion mutation; founder effect; Galicia
2.  Querying phenotype-genotype relationships on patient datasets using semantic web technology: the example of cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis 
Semantic Web technology can considerably catalyze translational genetics and genomics research in medicine, where the interchange of information between basic research and clinical levels becomes crucial. This exchange involves mapping abstract phenotype descriptions from research resources, such as knowledge databases and catalogs, to unstructured datasets produced through experimental methods and clinical practice. This is especially true for the construction of mutation databases. This paper presents a way of harmonizing abstract phenotype descriptions with patient data from clinical practice, and querying this dataset about relationships between phenotypes and genetic variants, at different levels of abstraction.
Due to the current availability of ontological and terminological resources that have already reached some consensus in biomedicine, a reuse-based ontology engineering approach was followed. The proposed approach uses the Ontology Web Language (OWL) to represent the phenotype ontology and the patient model, the Semantic Web Rule Language (SWRL) to bridge the gap between phenotype descriptions and clinical data, and the Semantic Query Web Rule Language (SQWRL) to query relevant phenotype-genotype bidirectional relationships. The work tests the use of semantic web technology in the biomedical research domain named cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX), using a real dataset and ontologies.
A framework to query relevant phenotype-genotype bidirectional relationships is provided. Phenotype descriptions and patient data were harmonized by defining 28 Horn-like rules in terms of the OWL concepts. In total, 24 patterns of SWQRL queries were designed following the initial list of competency questions. As the approach is based on OWL, the semantic of the framework adapts the standard logical model of an open world assumption.
This work demonstrates how semantic web technologies can be used to support flexible representation and computational inference mechanisms required to query patient datasets at different levels of abstraction. The open world assumption is especially good for describing only partially known phenotype-genotype relationships, in a way that is easily extensible. In future, this type of approach could offer researchers a valuable resource to infer new data from patient data for statistical analysis in translational research. In conclusion, phenotype description formalization and mapping to clinical data are two key elements for interchanging knowledge between basic and clinical research.
PMCID: PMC3444309  PMID: 22849591

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