GABAergic Inhibitory Function in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $100,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Drs. Joshua Corbin and Molly Huntsman from the Children’s National Medical Center examined the role of a particular class of brain cells (inhibitory interneurons) that dampen excessive activity in the “emotional center of the brain” (the amydala). This inhibition is deficient in Fragile X, and so they are looking for ways to remedy this. This is particularly interesting to parents of children who are overly anxious and emotional. They worked with Dr. Walter Kaufmann, a clinician at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland.

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Correcting Fragile X Syndrome by Inhibiting the Synaptic RNA-Binding Protein CPEB1

Joel Richter, PhD

The Richter lab is the foremost research group in the world in the study of CPEB, a protein critical for regulation of protein synthesis. With $170,000 in grants from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2008-2011, Dr. Joel Richter of the University of MA Medical School explored whether inhibitions of the CPEB may be a viable approach for treatment of Fragile X.

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Reactivation of the FMR1 Gene

With a $50,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Giovanni Neri and his team at Universita Cattolica del S. Cuore screened compounds with Neuropharm (UK) for reactivating compounds. This team is collaborating with Dr. Stephen Haggarty at Harvard and MIT (who also has a FRAXA grant), researching reactivation of the FMR1 gene and characterization of cell lines with unmethylated full mutations. Results published.

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Small Molecule Screen Using Fragile X Neural Stem Cells

With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Peng Jin’s team from Emory University School of Medicine found that Fragile X causes an increase production of new cells, so they tested large numbers of drugs to find those that can correct this. This high throughput drug screen uses neural stem cells from Fragile X knockout mice to identify small molecules which may be therapeutic in Fragile X.

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Neuromotor Outcome Measures for Clinical Trials in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $35,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Nicole Tartaglia from the University of Colorado Denver and Tracey Stackhouse aimed to develop neuromotor outcome measures for use in clinical trials in FXS, and to contribute to a deeper understanding of the neuromotor issues involved in FXS. This collaborative project was completed at the two sites of the Colorado Fragile X Clinic: The Children’s Hospital and Developmental FX. Dr. Nicole Tartaglia is the Medical Director of the Fragile X Clinic at The Children’s Hospital of Denver. Tracy Murnan Stackhouse, MA, OTR is the co-founder of the Developmental & Fragile X Resource Centre (Developmental FX), a clinic specializing in Fragile X.

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Small Molecule Modulators of Lithium for Treatment of Fragile X Syndrome

Stephen Haggarty, PhD, Harvard/MIT, Principal Investigator, FRAXA research grant

With a $219,500 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Stephen Haggarty from Havard/MIT developed a high-throughput drug screen to find compounds that inhibit GSK3, a critical enzyme in Fragile X. He looked for compounds that can accomplish this either alone or in combination with lithium, offering the possibility of enhancing the effectiveness of lithium as a treatment. His drug screen used patient-specific neural progenitor (NP) cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – which are created from cells in a skin biopsy from people with Fragile X syndrome (FXS) and other autism spectrum disorders.

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Composition and Localization of Dendritic mRNAs in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $80,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2 years, Drs. Smith and Wang are investigating which proteins, as well as the mRNA’s that code those proteins, are dysregulated in Fragile X. They have developed a elegant system to visualize the proteins and mRNA’s and determine where they are spacially in the neuron. This will help to better understand the root causes of Fragile X syndrome and to design targeted treatments.

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Developing Fragile X Treatments in Fruit Flies and Mice

Sean McBride, PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, FRAZA research grant

With a $380,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation from 2005-2009, Drs. Sean McBride, Tom Jogens, and Catherine Choi studied one of the most important aspects of FRAXA’s research; the preclinical validation of potential therapeutic strategies. Many labs have found new leads for treatment. However, very few have the capacity to test new drugs in the mouse model to establish efficacy rigorously enough to lead to clinical trials. The McBride lab (in a broad collaboration with the Choi, Jongens, and Skoulakis groups) aims to do just that. Results published.

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Basic Mechanisms of Disease and Potential Therapeutic Strategies

With $245,000 in grants from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Stephen Warren and his lab at Emory University studied all aspects of Fragile X syndrome, from the mechanisms of repeat expansion to high-throughput drug screens in the Drosophila model of Fragile X. The Warren lab made the original discovery of the Fragile X gene, FMR1, in collaboration with the Nelson and Oostra labs, and is recognized internationally as a leader in molecular genetics. Recent projects include establishment of induced pluripotent stem cell lines from Fragile X patients, and determination of other forms of mutation in the Fragile X gene, other than the most common trinucleotide repeat expansion.

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Using Fenobam to Reduce APP and Abeta in Fragile X Mice

James Malter, at University of Wisconsin-Madison, FRAXA research grant

With a $130,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2008-2009, Drs. James Malter and Cara Westmark at the University of Wisconsin studied the relationship between the Fragile X protein FMRP and APP, a protein important to the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease. APP may also contribute to the pathology of Fragile X, and its major metabolite, Aß, may contribute to abnormal protein synthesis via a positive feedback loop. This project sought to restore normal dendritic protein synthesis in Fragile X mice by breaking into this loop.

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Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in Fragile X Mutant Drosophila

Ravi Allada, MD, at Northwestern University, FRAXA research grant

With an $80,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2 years, Dr. Ravi Allada and his team studied at Northwestern University sleep behaviors in Fragile X fruit flies. These fruit flies are useful for several important reasons; not only do they have a good cognitive phenotype, they also have a clear disturbance of circadian rhythms. This is an important model for human hyperactivity and sleep disorders, and this group studied the underlying mechanisms in an effort to find treatments for the human conditions.

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