Repurposing Available Drugs to Treat Fragile X Syndrome – FRAXA Initiatives

FRAXA Research Foundation was founded in 1994 to fund biomedical research aimed at finding a cure for Fragile X syndrome and, ultimately, autism. We prioritize translational research with the potential to lead to improved treatments for Fragile X in the near term. Our early efforts involved supporting a great deal of basic neuroscience to understand the cause of Fragile X. By 1996, these efforts had already begun to yield results useful for drug repurposing. To date, FRAXA has funded well over $25 million in research, with over $3 million of that for repurposing existing drugs for Fragile X.

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Trial and No Error: Better Outcomes for Clinical Trials in Fragile X Syndrome

Christina Timmerman - Meffert lab

Johns Hopkins researcher Christina Timmerman, PhD, searches for a less subjective method to determine if a drug is working in patients with Fragile X syndrome. Many parents of children with Fragile X syndrome were crushed when promising drug trials were unexpectedly stopped a few years ago because subjective behavior-based outcome measures did not justify continuing the trials. The strong feelings linger today. If all goes well with Christina Timmerman’s research, future drug trials may be able to continue with additional metrics for assessment, until there are advanced treatments or even a cure for Fragile X syndrome.

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Fragile X Mutant Mouse Models

David Nelson, PhD, FRAXA Investigator

With $375,000 in grants from the FRAXA Research Foundation since 2009, Dr. David Nelson has developed an impressive array of advanced mouse models of Fragile X, at Baylor College of Medicine. These models are available to investigators worldwide on request. This resource has been essential for a broad, rapid distribution of Fragile X and related gene mouse models and has increased the pace of Fragile X research.

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Repurposing Drugs to Dampen Hyperactive Nonsense-Mediated Decay in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $90,000 grant from the FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Lynne Maquat and Dr. Tatsuaki Kurosaki will investigate nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) in Fragile X. NMD is a “housekeeping” process that cells use to prevent faulty proteins from being made. But there is too much of it in Fragile X syndrome. There are already available drugs that suppress NMD – including caffeine.

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Identifying Biomarkers for Fragile X Syndrome – A Study in Argentina

Bio·mark·er, noun, a distinctive biological or biologically derived indicator of a process, event, or condition. Doesn’t help? Well, it’s perfectly clear to Argentinian researchers Patricia Cogram, PhD, and Paulina Carullo, MD, from the FLENI Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They understand there is an urgent need for validated biomarkers after recent Fragile X syndrome clinical trials have failed on their primary endpoints.

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Double Down: Fragile X Clinical Trial Combines Two Available Drugs

Fragile X clinical trial combines two available drugs

If all the science world’s a stage, Fragile X researchers are more than merely players. They are center stage. So believes Francois Corbin, MD, PhD, professor, Université de Sherbrooke, Canada, who directs the university’s Fragile X Clinic. Corbin, who has received more than $100,000 in FRAXA support since 2012, is leading a pilot randomized Phase II trial, exploring the tolerability and the synergistic effect of a combined therapy.

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Fruit Flies to Model and Test Fragile X Treatments

Dr. Tom Jongens and Dr. Sean McBride study Fragile X Fruit Flies

Dr. Jongens and his collaborators have found an insulin-like protein in the fly brain that is overexpressed in the Fragile X mutant fly, leading to increased activity of the insulin signaling pathway. Furthermore, they found that certain behavioral patterns in the Fragile X flies can be rescued by expressing the FX gene just in insulin producing neurons in the fly brain. In the mutant, there are other changes in the signaling pathways, including a decrease in cAMP and elevation in PI3K, mTOR, Akt and ERK activity. They now propose to study 2 medicines used for diabetes: pioglitazone (increases cAMP and decreases Akt and ERK) and metformin (inhibits mTOR), in flies and mice to validate the potential efficacy of these novel therapeutics for Fragile X.

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FRAXA Grant to Nahum Sonenberg, PhD — Effects of metformin in Fmr1 knockout mouse model of Fragile X syndrome

Nahum Sonenberg

Mis-regulation of activity-dependent protein synthesis is one of the major cellular abnormalities found in Fragile X. Upstream neuronal signaling regulates a large cluster of enzymes called the mTORC1 complex, which in turn regulates protein synthesis. This complex is also controlled by cellular energy levels via the metabolic sensor AMP-activated Protein Kinase (AMPK). AMPK is a highly conserved kinase that is activated under conditions of energy stress, when intracellular ATP levels decline and intracellular AMP increases.

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