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.
FRAXA Fellowship Awarded May 2016, Renewed May 2017 Enhancement of NMDA Receptor Signaling for the Treatment of Fragile X Syndrome Principal Investigator Emily Osterweil, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow Stephanie Barnes, PhD University of Edinburgh $90,000 over 2 years University of Edinburgh Researcher Emily Osterweil, PhD, Probes the Brain’s Biochemistry to Correct Imbalances We know the “X” in Fragile X refers to the X chromosome, but it could just as easily refer to the unknown.Such as why do people with Fragile X have an excessive production of new proteins in their brains that lead to imbalances? That question is being dissected in the lab of Emily Osterweil, PhD, chancellor’s fellow, Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh, UK. Dr. Osterweil is using insights from previous experiments to identify new treatment strategies for Fragile X. Her goal is to understand the biochemistry of the brain better. She aims to correct those imbalances byRead more
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 $124,000 grant from the FRAXA Research Foundation from 2012-2014, Dr. Mara Dierssen and Dr. Rafael de la Torre conducted preclinical studies in Fragile X knockout mice and a clinical trial in Fragile X patients using Mega Green Tea Extract, which contains 45% by weight epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
One of the features of the Fragile X mouse model which is relevant to the human Fragile X syndrome (and autism) is social behavior. Several tests show consistent social behavioral abnormalities in the Fragile X mouse model. With a $140,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2012-2013, Dr. Willemsen at Erasmus University used social behavior tests to measure the effectiveness of several drug strategies.
Available Medication Lovastatin Corrects Excess Protein Synthesis in Fragile X Mice Dr. Emily Osterweil At the opening dinner of the 2011 FRAXA Investigators Meeting in Southbridge, MA, Dr. Emily Osterweil was awarded the FRAXA Pioneer Award for work demonstrating that Lovastatin could treat Fragile X. Dr. Osterweil conducted her experiments in the MIT laboratory of Dr. Mark Bear; she has since established her own laboratory at the University of Edinburgh. The team discovered that lovastatin, a drug widely prescribed for high cholesterol, can correct excess hippocampal protein synthesis in the mouse model of FXS and can prevent epileptogenesis. The work is published in the prestigious neuroscience journal Neuron: Lovastatin Corrects Excess Protein Synthesis and Prevents Epileptogenesis in a Mouse Model of Fragile X Syndrome. One implication of the mGluR theory of Fragile X is that there are exaggerated consequences of activation of signaling pathways which link metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) to the cellular machinery ofRead more
At the start, it’s always hard to know what methods will work best for something as complex as the development of disease-modifying treatments for Fragile X. But, we’ve always tried to let the science lead us down the right path. At this point, the results are unequivocal, and they have shaped how we are looking for the Next Great Thing in Fragile X treatments. As a bit of background, it’s worth noting that there are two basic ways of approaching treatment research for any disease: rational drug discovery vs. high-throughput screening. Rational drug discovery means exploring the basic mechanism of disease and identifying specific “treatment targets” that might be expected to correct the underlying problem. Usually, the target is an enzyme (a protein which facilitates biochemical reactions in the cell) or a receptor (a protein, usually on the cell surface, which detects small amounts of a chemical messenger, such asRead more