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October 26, 1984


JAMA. 1984;252(16):2213-2215. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350160081024

The application of new techniques of molecular biology to neurological disease has been one of the most exciting and heartening advances in recent years. Within the past year, Gusella and co-workers1 have discovered a gene marker for Huntington's disease on chromosome 4 in two large pedigrees. The identification of this marker is the culmination of the efforts of a very large team of neurologists, geneticists, psychologists, chemists, molecular biologists, and others. Huntington's disease is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern; children of an affected parent have a 50% chance of inheriting the disorder. The closeness of the marker to the gene raises hope for identification and eventual cloning of the gene itself. This would then provide a predictive test that could be used prenatally and for at-risk family members. The ethical implications of predicting an as-yet-untreatable disorder such as Huntington's disease are immense. However, knowing the character of the