Dave Bjork, Director of Community Relations, recently sat down with Peter Todd, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology in the University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Todd was recently awarded a FRAXA Research Grant for gene reactivation with the use of CRISPR. In this interview he tells us about CRISPR in Fragile X research, how realistic is it that it could turn the Fragile X gene back on, and if it can really be a cure for Fragile X.Read more
A 2013-2014 FRAXA Research Grant, Synaptic Characterization of Human Fragile X Neurons, has shown that the Fragile X mutation impairs homeostatic plasticity in human neurons, by blocking synaptic retinoic acid signaling.
Principal Investigator Marius Wernig, PhD and FRAXA Postdoctoral Fellow Samuele Marro, PhD at Stanford University used stem cells from human adults, instead of mouse cells, for this study. They found promising results with retinoic acid which is a metabolite of Vitamin A. The system they have developed could provide a powerful new cellular biomarker for screening many treatment approaches.
Dr. Marro provided us with the following summary of the published results.Read more
Theirs was an effort by a small group of thoughtful, committed members of the Fragile X Association of Michigan (FXAM) to be sure. The entire project took months! But it was hard work well worth the effort. After writing and revising (and revising), FXAM was awarded a $35,000 grant which the Michigan Fragile X group will now direct to Dr. Todd’s ongoing Fragile X research involving CRISPR!Read more
In the first week of March I attended my first Fragile X Advocacy Day to meet with many of the Massachusetts delegation to Congress. While this was my first time advocating for Fragile X research, I’ve been a longtime lung cancer research advocate and have met with many of the same representatives in the past. It was a pleasure to meet with many of the families as my participation in Advocacy Day was in the spirit of “we are all in this together”.Read more
CRISPR/Cas9 was used by MIT researchers to remove the molecular tags that keep the mutant gene shut off in Fragile X syndrome neurons and resulted in some of them producing protein normally. Much work is being done right now, with exciting new discoveries coming at a fast and furious pace.Read more
“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.”Read more
With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation awarded in 2016, University of Michigan researcher Peter Todd, MD, PhD, is using CRISPR to selectively turn the Fragile X gene back on in stem cells.Read more
With a $180,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation from 2016-2017, Dr. Jeannie Lee and her team at Harvard are working to reactivate the gene that is silenced in Fragile X syndrome.Read more