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.
With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Hongbing Wang’s team from Michigan State University looked at a treatment target “downstream” of the mGluR5 called cyclic AMP (cAMP). Levels of cAMP are lower in FXS patients and animal models, suggesting that it plays a role in FXS. Drugs that raise levels of cAMP may effectively treat fragile X. We are very pleased to report that, in 2012, Dr. Wang received a 5-year, $250,000 per year R01 grant from NIH to continue this promising research.