The NIH is updating a Research Plan for fragile X syndrome and the associated disorders of FXTAS (fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome) and FXPOI (fragile X-associated primary ovarian insufficiency) that was originally created in 2009 by experts convened by the them. FRAXA team members were part of these working groups, giving guidance on priority areas and most promising research directions and will be once again. The NIH is requesting input from families and other members of the fragile X community.
“We are trying to target the first event that goes wrong in fragile X syndrome”, says Todd, “One reason our previous attempts to develop treatments for fragile X syndrome have failed is that they’ve tried to target the downstream effects of losing the fragile X protein. The protein does many things… bypassing all the functions that it normally takes care of has proven difficult from a pharmacologic perspective.”
Studies at Yale University and elsewhere are showing that FMRP plays a significant role in the regulation of potassium channels. Looking forward, potassium channel opener drugs could rescue some symptoms of fragile X in humans.
While there are over 8,000 rare diseases affecting an estimated 350 million people worldwide, only around 200 of these conditions have effective treatments. Due to the high cost of developing new drugs, rare diseases have historically been less attractive to pharmaceutical companies. Drug repurposing systematically leverages the detailed information available on approved drugs and reduces the time and money needed to deliver safe “new” treatments, but with greater success rates and a potentially more immediate impact on health care.
The 18th International Fragile X and Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders Workshop in Quebec, Canada, was a great success, featuring fragile X much more heavily than any previous meeting in this series! We asked our speakers to summarize their work in their own words. These brief updates from researchers investigating fragile X.
According to Dr. Erickson, AZD7325 is a drug that selectively boosts GABA neurotransmission in the brain. GABA is the primary neurochemical in the brain that blocks brain activation. GABA activity is in balance in the brain with Glutamate activity, which is the primary neurochemical that causes brain activation. In fragile X, GABA activity is insufficient and glutamate activity is excessive, likely causing brain activity to be out of balance. AZD7325 attempts to correct parts of this imbalance by boosting the insufficient GABA activity in the brains of people with fragile X
Today the 18th International Fragile X and Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders Workshop kicks off in Quebec, Canada. For the next six days, scientists from around the world will gather at this workshop to focus on recent breakthroughs in our understanding of fragile X, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and related neurodevelopmental disorders. This biennial meeting has been instrumental to the discovery of many disease-causing genes and the development of therapeutic strategies for these disorders.
Once the neural marker is identified for a particular challenge, such as kids with poor language versus good language, neural markers can be measured during drug and behavioral therapy trials to see if a child is improving based on objective biological measures.
With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation awarded in 2017, Dr. Clinton Canal targets seratonin receptors. “There are 15 unique serotonin receptors (at least) and many of them impact the function of brain circuits that are impaired in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders,” said Dr. Canal. “Results from this project could guide new drug discovery or drug repurposing for fragile X.”
Cures Within Reach, the leading global nonprofit focused on repurposing research as a fast track to saving patient lives, has awarded FRAXA Research Foundation the 2017 Golan Christie Taglia Patient Impact Philanthropy Award for efforts to find treatments for the rare disease fragile X syndrome.
“We treated mice with metformin and corrected all the core fragile X deficits. We are optimistic about using metformin in human clinical trials. This is a generic drug with few side effects” says Nahum Sonenberg, PhD, James McGill Professor, Department of Biochemistry, McGill Cancer Center, McGill University.