With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Patrick McCamphill and Dr. Mark Bear at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will further investigate drug tolerance and ways to overcome it.
FRAXA Research Foundation was founded in 1994 to fund biomedical research aimed at finding a cure for Fragile X syndrome and, ultimately, autism. We prioritize translational research with the potential to lead to improved treatments for Fragile X in the near term. Our early efforts involved supporting a great deal of basic neuroscience to understand the cause of Fragile X. By 1996, these efforts had already begun to yield results useful for drug repurposing. To date, FRAXA has funded well over $25 million in research, with over $3 million of that for repurposing existing drugs for Fragile X. Here are some examples of FRAXA-funded work on repurposing available drugs for Fragile X syndrome: Lithium In the mid-1990s, the Greenough lab at the University of Illinois discovered that FMRP, the protein missing in Fragile X, is rapidly translated in dendrites in response to stimulation of glutamate receptors. FRAXA funded preclinical validation of this discovery in theRead more
With a $100,000 grant from the FRAXA Research Foundation in 2015, Dr. Peter Vanderklish explored a novel strategy to treat Fragile X syndrome: AMPK activators. The good news is that there are FDA approved (for example, metformin) and naturally occurring AMPK activators (such as resveratrol, found in red wine).
Just as the Amazon rainforest may hold a cure for cancer if only scientists can find it, a bizarre marine critter found off the California coast — Bugula neritina— is the only known source of a potential new Fragile X treatment, Bryostatin. Last month, FRAXA sat down with scientists from Neurotrope BioScience, a specialty biopharmaceutical company developing medicines for rare diseases and Alzheimer’s based on Bryostatin. Their Fragile X program is based on research by a West Virginia team led by Daniel Alkon, MD, which showed that Bryostatin-1 restores hippocampal synapses and spatial learning and memory in adult Fragile X mice. “Our results show that synaptic and cognitive function of adult FXS mice can be normalized through pharmacologic treatment and that bryostatin-1-like agents may represent a novel class of drugs to treat Fragile X mental retardation even after postpartum brain development has largely completed,” remarked Dr. Alkon. Bugula and Bryostatins Often mistaken for seaweed, bugula is actually colonies of small animals, likeRead more
Two new papers from FRAXA-funded researcher Dr. Richard Jope demonstrate the potential of GSK3 inhibitors, including the available drug, lithium, to reverse learning deficits in Fragile X. Dr. Jope has previously shown that lithium and other more specific inhibitors of the enzyme Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 (GSK3) can rescue key symptoms in Fragile X mice. These new publications take that study a step further by showing that lithium (at usual therapeutic doses) and investigational GSK3 inhibitors could reverse a number of cognitive deficits in the mice. The Jope group showed that Fragile X mice are abnormal in novel object recognition, spatial memory, and temporal order memory, and that these GSK3-inhibiting compounds could all reverse these defects, along with associated electrophysiological abnormalities. Furthermore, in the short term, these abnormalities were relatively insensitive to treatment with an mGluR5 antagonist (although other studies suggest that prolonged treatment with mGluR5 antagonists can correct these abnormalities indirectly).Read more
With $208,000 in funds from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Richard Jope and his team at the University of Miami tested whether newly developed, highly specific inhibitors of GSK3 can reduce behavioral abnormalities in Fragile X mice.
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
Treatment Trials As you probably know, three pharmaceutical companies are conducting clinical trials in Fragile X. Two Swiss giants, Novartis and Roche, are racing to get their lead mGluR5 antagonists to market, and U.S. startup Seaside Therapeutics is pursuing a compound which targets the brain receptor, GABAB. Novartis has large-scale Phase IIb/III trials of the drug AFQ056 well underway. Sites worldwide are enrolling adolescents and adults, with 35 more adults needed and recruitment of adolescents planned through Fall 2012. At this point, some participants have already completed the placebo-controlled trial and are now taking AFQ056, with the option of continuing it until it reaches the market. Novartis is also working toward a trial of AFQ056 for younger children with Fragile X. Roche completed a Phase II trial of its mGluR5 antagonist (currently with the catchy name of RO4917523) last year and is about to commence a larger Phase II trialRead more
With a $219,500 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Stephen Haggarty from Havard/MIT developed a high-throughput drug screen to find compounds that inhibit GSK3, a critical enzyme in Fragile X. He looked for compounds that can accomplish this either alone or in combination with lithium, offering the possibility of enhancing the effectiveness of lithium as a treatment. His drug screen used patient-specific neural progenitor (NP) cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – which are created from cells in a skin biopsy from people with Fragile X syndrome (FXS) and other autism spectrum disorders.
With $736,000 in grants from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2000-2007, Dr. Robert Bauchwitz at Columbia University developed 15 transgenic mouse models of Fragile X syndrome, using them to evaluate a range of experimental treatments. Results published.