Bcl-xL Inhibition as a Therapeutic Strategy for Fragile X Syndrome

Bcl-xL Inhibition as a Therapeutic Strategy for Fragile X Syndrome

Scientists have found increases in the numbers of neurons in brain regions of autistic children, suggesting a problem in developmental programmed cell death pathways. One of the most important effectors of neuronal survival during brain development is the “anti-cell death” protein Bcl-xL. While the normal function of Bcl-xL is to maintain a healthy number of neurons and synapses, over-expressed Bcl-xL can cause an overabundance of synaptic connections. This may be happening in Fragile X.

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Small Molecules To Target r(CGG) Expansions to Treat Fragile X Syndrome

Small Molecules To Target r(CGG) Expansions to Treat Fragile X Syndrome

With a 2-year, $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr.’s Matthew Disney and Wang-Yong Yang worked to correct the underlying problem in Fragile X: the silencing of the Fragile X gene (FMR1) and the resulting lack of FMRP (Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein). Their approach was to use novel small molecules to target the abnormal CGG repeats before the FMR1 gene.

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Potassium Channel Modulators to Treat Fragile X

Potassium Channel Modulators to Treat Fragile X

With $246,000 in funding from FRAXA over 2012-2014, the Yale University team of Leonard Kaczmarek, PhD, showed that loss of FMRP leads to an increased Kv3.1 potassium currents and decreased Slack potassium currents in neurons. Both of these changes impair timing of action potentials in auditory neurons (and likely others throughout the brain). The team also found that the firing pattern of neurons in response to repeated stimulation is severely abnormal in Fragile X mice. Based on these results, they are collaborating with the UK-based company Autifony to develop and test advanced compounds which may reverse these deficits.

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Translation-Independent Functions of FMRP in Excitability, Synaptic Transmission and Plasticity

Translation-Independent Functions of FMRP in Excitability, Synaptic Transmission and Plasticity

With a $140,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Vitaly Klyachko and team at Washington University explored STP (short-term plasticity) in Fragile X, namely looking at presynaptic calcium dynamics as a major underlying cause of the STP defects.

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Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 (GSK3), Lithium and Fragile X

Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 (GSK3), Lithium and Fragile X

With $208,000 in funds from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Richard Jope and his team at the University of Miami tested whether newly developed, highly specific inhibitors of GSK3 can reduce behavioral abnormalities in Fragile X mice.

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Development of a Novel GABA-A Agonist in Fragile X Syndrome

Development of a Novel GABA-A Agonist in Fragile X Syndrome

Of the many genes known to be regulated by FMRP, the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor A (GABA(A)), is gaining attention as a potential target for the treatment of FXS. Mounting evidence suggests decreased expression and functioning of GABA(A) is involved in the pathophysiology of FXS. Non-selective GABA(A) agonism in animal models of FXS has been associated with normalization of morphological features, GABA(A) expression, and behavior. However, the clinical use of these agents in Fragile X is associated with unwanted side-effects, such as sedation, dulling of cognition, and occasional paradoxical agitation, which limits their use.

Tori ShaefferRead more

The mTOR Pathway in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2012-2013, Dr. Eric Klann and Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Aditi Bhattacharrya of New York University investigated alterations in the mTOR pathway in Fragile X syndrome – which is also known to be defective in several forms of autism. Their work was published in September 2012 and received international attention.

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Matrix Metalloproteinase Therapeutic Treatments for Fragile X Syndrome

Matrix Metalloproteinase Therapeutic Treatments for Fragile X Syndrome

With a $157,000 grant from the FRAXA Research Foundation in 2012-2013, Dr. Kendal Broadie and Dr. Cheryl Gatto worked to define the distinct but also overlapping roles for MMP-1 and MMP-2 in synaptic structural and functional development. In drug studies with Fragile X fruit flies, they will be testing a range of MMPIs in drug treatments to compare effectiveness during development and at maturity, in order to define the contributions of FXS developmental impairments and adult recovery/plasticity.

Kendal BroadieRead more

Endocannabinoid Mediated Synaptic Plasticity in Fragile X Mice

Endocannabinoid Mediated Synaptic Plasticity in Fragile X Mice

With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over two years, Drs. Olivier Manzoni and Daniela Neuhofer researched the relationship between Fragile X syndrome and the areas of the brain that are involved in reward processing, regulation of emotional behavior and emotional memory as well as attention, planning and working memory.

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Effects of minocycline on vocal production and auditory processing in a mouse model of Fragile X

Effects of minocycline on vocal production and auditory processing in a mouse model of Fragile X

With $135,000 in grants from FRAXA Research Foundation over several years, Dr. Khaleel Razak and Dr. Iryna Ethell explored robust biomarkers relevant to the FXS and the efficacy of minocycline treatment.

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Developing IPS cells to Screen Drugs which can Reactivate the FMR1 Gene

Developing IPS cells to Screen Drugs which can Reactivate the FMR1 Gene

With $146,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2012-2013, Drs. Anita Bhattacharyya and Xinyu Zhao at the University of Wisconsin developed a new mouse model of Fragile X syndrome which will enable testing of gene reactivation and gene therapy approaches to treatment. They transplanted human Fragile X neural cells differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells into brains of neonatal mice and then testing for FMR1 reactivation. In 2015, The John Merck Fund assumed support for this work with a generous grant of $750,000 to the scientists. Results published.

Anita Bhattacharyya, PhDRead more

Preclinical Evaluation of Serotonin Receptor Agonists as Novel Pharmacological Tools in Fragile X Syndrome

Preclinical Evaluation of Serotonin Receptor Agonists as Novel Pharmacological Tools in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $66,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2013, Dr. Lucia Ciranna and her team from the Universita di Catania tested if specific serotonins could reverse abnormal phentotypes found in Fragile X syndrome. 

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The Endocannabinoid System in a Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome

The Endocannabinoid System in a Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome

With a $128,500 grant over 2011-2013 from FRAXA Research Foundation, Drs. Bradley Alger and Ai-Hui Tang at the University of Maryland researched endocannabinoid pathways in Fragile X.

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Small Rho GTPases, a Potential Therapeutic Target for Fragile X Syndrome

Small Rho GTPases, a Potential Therapeutic Target for Fragile X Syndrome

With $384,345 in grants from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. MariVi Tejada from the University of Houston focused on a particularly promising point of intervention in pathways of brain receptors, and tested several potential therapeutic compounds in an attempt to rescue function in the mouse model of Fragile X.

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A Developmental Switch Exists in the Effects of FMRP

A Developmental Switch Exists in the Effects of FMRP

With a $90,00 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation for 2010-2011, Dr. Kimberly Huber and her team at the University of Texas at Southwestern found that there is a developmental switch of postsynaptic FMRP on synaptic function. This switch is controlled by MEF2 transcriptional activity. Proper synapse maturation and elimination is crucial for the establishment of appropriate neural circuits that underlie sensory processing and cognition. Neuron of Fragile X patients as well as in the mouse model of Fragile X, Fmr1 KO mice, display more dendritic spines, the point of contact for excitatory synapses, as well as long and thin filopodia resembling immature spines. This suggests Fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) has a role in promoting synapse maturation and elimination.

Dr. Kimberly HuberRead more

Ab-Mediated Translation in Fragile X Syndrome

Ab-Mediated Translation in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $120,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation during 2011-2012, Dr. Cara Westmark at the University of Wisconsin explored the role of AbPP as a potential treatment option for fragile X. AbPP produces b-amyloid which is over-expressed in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Down syndrome. 

Fragile X Researcher, Cara Westmark, PhDRead more

Reward Function in Fragile X Syndrome

Reward Function in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $82,500 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2011-2012, Dr. Christopher Cowan and Dr. Laura Smith explored the role of specific signaling pathways in drug-related behavioral deficits, including determining the role, if any, of known impairments in the Fragile X brain.

Christopher Cowan, PhDRead more

Inherited Channelopathies in Cortical Circuits of Fmr1 KO Mice

Inherited Channelopathies in Cortical Circuits of Fmr1 KO Mice

With this two year award of $90,000, Dr. Zhang and Principal Investigator Dr. Andreas Frick at Neurocentre Magendie in France investigated channelopathies using Fragile X mice. Many other proteins are misregulated as a result of the absence of FMRP. It is known that many ion channels, the pores in the cell membrane which allow neurons to conduct electrical impulses, have altered levels in Fragile X. This state is sometime called a “channelopathy” in the pharma world. This group is studying the effect of specific alterations in ion channels, and potential therapeutic effects of drugs which open and close these channels.

Andreas Frick, PhDRead more

Role of JNK in FMRP Regulated Translation in Fragile X Syndrome

Role of JNK in FMRP Regulated Translation in Fragile X Syndrome

With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2 years, Dr. Michael Wilhelm and his team at the University of Wisconsin studied a protein known as JNK, which is observed to be abnormally regulated in Fragile X. Like FMRP, it is involved in regulating dendritic protein synthesis, and so it may be a target for drug therapy in Fragile X.

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Serotonergic Rescue of Synaptic Plasticity in FMR1 Knockout Mice

Serotonergic Rescue of Synaptic Plasticity in FMR1 Knockout Mice

With $306,000 in grants from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Julius Zhu from the University of Virginia examined the effects of several drugs such as Buspar and Abilify which manipulate specific serotonin receptors and the effect that has on synaptic plasticity (LTP and LTD).

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Efficient Screening for Pharmaceutical Amelioration of FXS Behavioral Deficits in Drosophila

Efficient Screening for Pharmaceutical Amelioration of FXS Behavioral Deficits in Drosophila

With a $112,250 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 3 years, Dr. Efthimios Skoulakis and his team from the Institute of Cellular and Developmental Biology conducted the first FRAXA project in Greece, where they developed a speedy new test for learning problems in fruit flies, which allowed them to test a number of drugs that are potential Fragile X treatments.

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GABAergic Inhibitory Function in Fragile X Syndrome

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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The Slack Potassium Ion channel is a Therapeutic Target for Fragile X

The Slack Potassium Ion channel is a Therapeutic Target for Fragile X

With $282,000 in funding from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Leonard Kaczmarek and colleagues explored association of Slack channels with the Fragile X protein (FMRP).

Leonard Kaczmarek, PhDRead more

Pilot Clinical Trial of Lithium in Fragile X Shows Promising Results

Pilot Clinical Trial of Lithium in Fragile X Shows Promising Results

With a $65,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2005, Dr. Berry-Kravis at the Rush University Medical Center conducted a pilot clinical trial of lithium in 15 patients with Fragile X syndrome. Results published.

Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD, Fragile X researcherRead more

Encouraging Results from First Trial of Minocycline in Fragile X

Encouraging Results from First Trial of Minocycline in Fragile X

With a $40,000 grant from FRAXA, Dr. Carlo Paribello and his team at the Surrey Place Centre Fragile X clinic in Toronto, Ontario, ran an open label trial to see if minocycline can improve learning and reduce anxiety and behavioral problems in people with Fragile X. Twenty participants between the ages of 13 and 35 years took minocycline for two months.

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