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.
With $375,000 in grants from the FRAXA Research Foundation since 2009, Dr. David Nelson has developed an impressive array of advanced mouse models of Fragile X, at Baylor College of Medicine. These models are available to investigators worldwide on request. This resource has been essential for a broad, rapid distribution of Fragile X and related gene mouse models and has increased the pace of Fragile X research.
Targeted transcriptional reactivation of FMR1 in Fragile X Syndrome stem cells Peter Todd MD, PhD Principal Investigator Jill Haenfler PhD Postdoctoral Fellow University of Michigan Medical Center $45,000 in 2016 renewed for $45,000 in 2017 Swimming Upstream Fish like salmon are born in fresh water streams and rivers. When the time comes for them to breed, they return to the stream of their birth to lay eggs in the same spot where they were born. To accomplish this, they must swim upstream against the current or flow of the stream. Taking a page out of the salmon DNA playbook, University of Michigan scientists Peter Todd, MD, PhD, and postdoctoral fellow Jill Haenfler, Ph.D., are exploring unchartered waters to find a cure for Fragile X Syndrome. The researchers are adapting CRISPR research to reactivate the FMR1 gene, which provides instructions for making a protein called FMRP — needed for normal brainRead more
David Nelson, PhD; With Yanghong Gu, PhD; and Ruiting Zong, PhD It’s rare to find a researcher working on the Big Three — Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS) and Fragile X-associated primary ovarian insufficiency (FXPOI). Then again, David Nelson, PhD, is the rare bird. Nelson is a professor of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, and director of Baylor’s Graduate Program in Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. He has been involved in FXS research since the late 1980s where he helped identify the mutation and the FMR1 gene. These days, researchers in Nelson’s lab at Baylor are studying FXS, FXTAS and FXPOI using mouse models. The goals are to understand which cell/tissue types contribute to these disorders, which genes are involved and what can be done to modify the course of the disorder as a result of these findings. “We are developing mice thatRead more
The National Institutes of Health has just announced new awards of $35 million over five years to support three Centers for Collaborative Research in Fragile X. Investigators at these centers will seek to better understand Fragile X-associated disorders and work toward developing effective treatments. All of these scientists have been funded for years by FRAXA Research Foundation, and now each team will receive over $2 million per year for five years! Kimberly M. Huber, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas (Grant number 1U54 HD082008-01) Many people with Fragile X syndrome are sensitive to sensory stimuli, especially noise. Dr. Huber’s team, along with Khaleel Razak, Ph.D., Iryna Ethell, Ph.D., and Devin Binder, Ph.D. of University of CA at Riverside, will study brain circuits in mouse models and people to try to determine the causes of heightened sensitivity to sound. This information may lead to more targeted therapies. Dr. HuberRead more
Many older family members in the Fragile X community are affected by FXTAS (Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome). We all hope that knowing the underlying cause of neurodegenerative symptoms in FXTAS will help in the development of specific treatments over the long term. In the short term, we would also hope that having a specific diagnosis would help us to identify particular available treatments which might be more effective than others. One of the available treatments for Alzheimer's Disease is a glutamate receptor blocker called memantine (Namenda), and dementia specialists think this drug could be effective in treating a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases. It has been found to be effective in treating Lewy Body Dementia, a disorder which causes parkinsonism and cognitive decline, with features rather similar to FXTAS. This led researchers to think that this drug could also be useful in treating FXTAS, and initial open-label experience with it wasRead more
With a 2-year, $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr.’s Matthew Disney and Wang-Yong Yang worked to correct the underlying problem in Fragile X: the silencing of the Fragile X gene (FMR1) and the resulting lack of FMRP (Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein). Their approach was to use novel small molecules to target the abnormal CGG repeats before the FMR1 gene.
With a $112,250 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 3 years, Dr. Efthimios Skoulakis and his team from the Institute of Cellular and Developmental Biology conducted the first FRAXA project in Greece, where they developed a speedy new test for learning problems in fruit flies, which allowed them to test a number of drugs that are potential Fragile X treatments.