Healx team David, Dan, Narissa - FRAXA (1)

Drug Repurposing Study Results Accelerate Progress Towards Fragile X Treatments

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.

Clinton Canal, PhD

Targeting Serotonin Receptors to Treat Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms

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.”

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

Fruit Flies to Model and Test Fragile X Treatments

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.