I came across an interesting article today about a neurologist who used genealogy research to trace a rare inherited disease that affects just five families around the world.
Pallido-Ponto-Nigral-Degeneration (PPND) strikes in middle age, causing symptoms similar to Parkinsons and Alzheimers. Victims usually are dead within eight years.
Examining WWII-era records in a hospital basement, Dr. Zbigniew K. Wszolek discovered that two US families with the condition were linked through adoption. The common ancestor: Sarah Bott, born in 1854 in Iowa.
Her parents and grandparents lived to a ripe old age, as did her husband and his children from a second marriage. But four of Bott’s five children were crippled and died in middle age (Bott herself died at age 30 in surgery). Wszolek concluded the disease-causing mutation occurred spontaneously in Bott.
Wszolek tracks the family on an 11-foot family tree. Of Botts 315 living descendants (spread out over 11 states), 48 now have PPND.
Look for information on researching your family’s medical history in an upcoming issue of Family Tree Magazine.