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What made Lincoln's gait clumsy...

US' beloved president Abraham Lincoln may have suffered from an incurable hereditary disease, feel researchers.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2006 17:19 IST

Abraham Lincoln's appearance and historical documents that note his especially clumsy gait have long caused researchers to puzzle over whether he may have had a genetic disorder called Marfan syndrome.

Now, members of the beloved president's family tree are wondering if Lincoln had a different, incurable hereditary disease called ataxia that affects the coordination it takes to walk, write, speak and swallow.

 Genes behind clumsy gait!

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered a gene mutation in 11 generations of relatives who descended from Lincoln's grandparents, and they say there's a 25 per cent chance that Lincoln also inherited the gene, said Laura Ranum, a genetics professor who led the research.

"Because the historical literature talks about his clumsy gait. It raises the possibility that that was caused by a mutation in this gene," Ranum said.

But since Lincoln has no living direct descendants, confirming whether the nation's 16th president had the defective gene would require that his DNA be taken from historical artifacts and tested - an issue that has been debated over the years.

"What historical purpose would it serve? It (wouldn't) change the facts of how he became a great president," said Kim Bauer, Lincoln curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. "I would fall on the side of leaving President Lincoln alone."

The new findings on the ataxia gene were reported this week in the online edition of the journal Nature Genetics. Since 1992, the Minnesota researchers have studied more than 300 members of the Lincoln family.

First Published: Jan 30, 2006 11:00 IST