When a scientist's work hits too close to home

Dr Soo-Kyung Lee with her daughter Yuna in their Oregon home. Balancing the missions of science and motherhood, Dr Lee, who had worked with the FOX family of genes for years, began doing what she was uniquely positioned to do: aiming her research squ
Dr Soo-Kyung Lee with her daughter Yuna in their Oregon home. Balancing the missions of science and motherhood, Dr Lee, who had worked with the FOX family of genes for years, began doing what she was uniquely positioned to do: aiming her research squarely at her daughter's brain disorder.PHOTO: NYTIMES

By the time her mother received the doctor's e-mail, Yuna Lee was already two years old, a child with a frightening medical mystery. Plagued by body-rattling seizures and inconsolable crying, she could not speak, walk or stand.

"Why is she suffering so much?" her anguished mother, Dr Soo-Kyung Lee, wondered. Brain scans, genetic tests and neurological examinations yielded no answers. But when an e-mail popped up suggesting that Yuna might have a mutation on a gene called FOXG1, Soo-Kyung froze.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2018, with the headline 'When a scientist's work hits too close to home'. Print Edition | Subscribe