What is Pitt Hopkins Syndrome?
Pitt Hopkins Syndrome (PTHS) is a rare genetic disorder affecting a specific gene in chromosome 18, called TCF4. PTHS is characterized by developmental delay, possible breathing problems of episodic hyperventilation and/or breath-holding while awake, gastrointestinal issues, lack of speech, and distinctive facial features. Delayed milestones are reported in all, with hypotonia in most. Global developmental delays are significant and intellectual disability is moderate to severe; most affected individuals are nonverbal. Other common findings are behavioral issues, hand stereotypic movements, seizures/epilepsy, constipation, and severe myopia (nearsightedness). As we learn more about Pitt Hopkins, the developmental spectrum of the disorder is widening, and can also include difficulties with anxiety and ADHD, and sensory disorders.
Pitt Hopkins syndrome is considered an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and some individuals with Pitt Hopkins syndrome have been diagnosed with Autism, with ‘atypical’ autistic characteristics, and/or Sensory Integration Dysfunction.
Because of its genetic relationship to autism and other disorders, many researchers believe that curing Pitt Hopkins syndrome will lead to cures for similar disorders.
It is quite rare
Overall prevalence of PTHS is unknown, however there are currently 1000+ diagnosed in the world. One laboratory estimated that the frequency of chromosome 18q21 deletions and mutations associated with PTHS is between 1 in 34,000 and 1 in 41,000. An estimate from another researcher is 1 in 200,000-300,000. PTHS occurs in both males and females and is not limited to a specific ethnic background.
With continued research and awareness of Pitt Hopkins, we hope to build a more comprehensive understanding of the spectrum of this disorder, and begin the search for a desperately needed cure.
PTHS was first described by D. Pitt and I. Hopkins in the Australian Pediatric Journal in 1978. The connection to TCF4 was not established until 2007 when it was found to play an essential role in the development of the nervous system and the brain. Any functional deficiency of TCF4 greatly affects how a child develops over time.
We invite you to learn more about Pitt Hopkins syndrome at the Pitt Hopkins Research Foundation website.