With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2018-2019, Drs. Devin Binder, Iryna Ethell, and Patricia Pirbhoy at the University of California at Riverside aim to understand – and reverse – hypersensitivity to sound in Fragile X syndrome.
FRAXA Research Foundation has renewed Dr. Elizabeth McCullagh’s 2017 FRAXA Fellowship for a second year. Dr. McCullagh and Principal Investigator Dr. Achem Klug are investigating the “cocktail party effect” in Fragile X mice. There is a specific circuit which allows us to discriminate between competing sound sources, helping us focus on a sound source of interest such as with a conversation partner. If clear differences are found in this circuit, they could be used as potential biomarkers for Fragile X clinical trials.
With funding from FRAXA, the Yale University team of Leonard Kaczmarek, PhD showed that the firing pattern of suditory neurons in response to repeated stimulation is severely abnormal in Fragile X mice. Based on these results, they are collaborating with the UK-based company Autifony to develop advanced compounds which may reverse these deficits.
Studies at Yale University and elsewhere are showing that FMRP plays a significant role in the regulation of potassium channels. Looking forward, potassium channel opener drugs could rescue some symptoms of Fragile X in humans.
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.
With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation awarded over 2016-2017, University of California researchers Khaleel Razak, PhD, and Jonathan W. Lovelace, PhD, are exploring drug combinations to limit hypersensitivity to sounds in Fragile X mice.
With $258,000 in grants since 2013 from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Anis Contractor and Dr. Qionger He at Northwestern University are exploring the potential of the available drug bumetanide to correct altered GABA signalling in a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome.
Once the neural marker is identified for a particular challenge, such as kids with poor language versus good language, neural markers can be measured during drug and behavioral therapy trials to see if a child is improving based on objective biological measures.
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
Yes, we all know the signs of Fragile X anxiety: Ears begin turning red followed by incessant pacing, heavy breathing, stiffening body, flapping, jumping, avoidance or yelling. Sometimes, it’s the more severe screaming, pinching, scratching, biting and general tearing things up or, worse, the nuclear meltdown.
Sensory Overload Ever wonder why your child with Fragile X suddenly screams for no apparent reason or jumps and flaps uncontrollably seemingly for hours? You got it: hyperexcitability. But what exactly causes it? And what can fix it? Kimberly Huber, PhD, is working long and hard in her lab to answer those questions. Dr. Huber, professor, Neuroscience, UT Southwestern Medical Center, is seeking to understand how FMRP regulates connections between brain cells, called synapses, and the function of brain circuits, which are several connected brain cells. Her current focus is the study of synapses and brain circuits in the mouse that mediate sensory perception, including perception of touch and sound. She aims to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which loss of FMRP causes hyperexcitable sensory circuits. The goal: to develop targeted therapeutics that can restore normal brain function and reduce sensory hypersensitivity. “Sensory brain circuits are overactive, or hyperexcitable,Read more
University of California Researchers Khaleel Razak, PhD, and Jonathan W. Lovelace, PhD, Explore Drug Combinations to Limit Hypersensitivity to Sounds in Fragile X Mice We’ve all been there. Our child with Fragile X hears something and becomes excited. Very excited. Hand flapping follows with non-stop jumping and ear-piercing squawking. Nothing helps. No meds. No iPhone. No magic toy. Several minutes go by. Sometimes longer. How many times have you apologized in a grocery store — or restaurant — or at the mall? Wouldn’t it make our lives better if this unpredictable excitability was minimalized or eliminated? That’s the premise behind research being conducted at University of California, Riverside. Principal Investigator Khaleel Razak, PhD, and postdoctoral fellow Jonathan W. Lovelace, PhD, are studying mice genetically altered to mimic the genetic characteristics of humans with Fragile X Syndrome. Their focus is on the mouse brain’s electrical activity when different kinds of soundsRead more
4 Countries – 10 Teams – $1 Million From finding new treatment targets, to pinpointing outcome measures for future clinical trials, to attempting to reactivate the gene which is silenced in Fragile X syndrome, these innovative scientists will bring us closer to a cure. Improving Clinical Trials Many parents of children with Fragile X know well the struggles of getting their children to sleep through the night. Mice and fruit flies engineered to mimic Fragile X Syndrome also have disrupted sleep. Drs. Westmark and Smith will test potential therapeutics in mice using sleep as an outcome measure and investigate whether sleep could be used as an outcome measure for future clinical trials. The search is on for a simple blood test to measure how well a treatment works for an individual with Fragile X. Dr. Frank Kooy's team investigates. Testing Treatment Targets One of the goals of FRAXA’s research program has been to find biological pathwaysRead more
2016 Funding Priorities Start with Clinical Trials While FRAXA Research Foundation’s research goals remain largely unchanged, the landscape in which we operate has changed significantly in the past few years. Negative results from the major clinical trials of investigational agents have resulted in cessation of development of mGluR5 antagonists for Fragile X syndrome. There is still much evidence that this drug class could be successful as a Fragile X therapeutic, but we do not see the need for more “proof of principle”-type preclinical research on mGluR5 antagonists. Studies of possible mechanisms of tolerance in Fragile X would be appealing as a topic going forward, as would studies of circuit function in Fragile X, since available evidence suggests some form of circuit-based (rather than synaptic) tolerance in Fragile X mice and humans. Other potential areas of interest would include exploration of combination treatment strategies, both in animal models and in clinicalRead more
Khaleel Razak, PhD – University of California, Riverside with Iryna Ethell, PhD Co-Principal Investigator FRAXA Awards: $45,000 in 2016 $45,000 in 2013 $45,000 in 2012 2013 Update by Khaleel Razak, PhD The goals of our FRAXA-funded research project are to determine robust biomarkers relevant to the FXS and to examine the efficacy of minocycline treatment. We particularly focus on the symptoms related to communication from both production and reception viewpoints. We have identified multiple biomarkers in the Fmr1 knockout (KO) mice with the first year’s funding. There is a deficit in ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) in the KO mice. When male mice are paired with females, the KO males call at significantly slower rates (Rotschafer et al., 2012). Minocycline treatment during the first month of life, reverses the USV deficits. Based on this promising finding of a potentially useful pre-clinical outcome measure, we have pursued identification of critical developmental time windows
With a $82,500 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2011-2012, Dr. Christopher Cowan and Dr. Laura Smith explored the role of specific signaling pathways in drug-related behavioral deficits, including determining the role, if any, of known impairments in the Fragile X brain.
With this $90,000 award, Dr. Zhang and Principal Investigator Dr. Andreas Frick at Neurocentre Magendie in France investigated channelopathies using Fragile X mice. $90,000 GrantNeurocentre Magendie 2010-11 FRAXA Research Grant $90,000 over 2 Years Andreas Frick, PhD; Principal Investigator Yu Zhang, PhD; FRAXA Postdoctoral Fellow Many other proteins are misregulated as a result of the absence of FMRP. It is known that many ion channels, the pores in the cell membrane which allow neurons to conduct electrical impulses, have altered levels in Fragile X. This state is sometime called a “channelopathy” in the pharma world. This group is studying the effect of specific alterations in ion channels, and potential therapeutic effects of drugs which open and close these channels. The mammalian neocortex is central for processes as diverse as sensory information processing, perception or control of motor activity, and cortical defects have devastating neurological and psychiatric consequences. In humans, the consequences of FragileRead more
A study finds that a new compound reverses many of the major symptoms associated with Fragile X syndrome (FXS). The paper is published in the April 12 issue of the journal Neuron, describes the exciting observation that the FXS correction can occur in adult mice, after the symptoms of the condition have already been established. Previous research has suggested that inhibition of mGlu5, a subtype of receptor for the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, may ameliorate many of the major symptoms of the disease. This study, a collaboration between a group at Roche in Switzerland, led by Dr. Lothar Lindemann, and Dr. Mark Bear’s MIT lab, used an mGlu5 inhibitor called CTEP to examine whether inhibition of mGlu5 could reverse FXS symptoms. The researchers gave CTEP to mice which model Fragile X. "We found that even when treatment with CTEP was started in adult mice, it reduced a wide range of FXSRead more
With a $100,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Drs. Joshua Corbin and Molly Huntsman from the Children’s National Medical Center examined the role of a particular class of brain cells (inhibitory interneurons) that dampen excessive activity in the “emotional center of the brain” (the amydala). This inhibition is deficient in Fragile X, and so they are looked for ways to remedy this. This is particularly interesting to parents of children who are overly anxious and emotional. They worked with Dr. Walter Kaufmann, a clinician at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland.
With a $74,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi at CUNY explored the GABA receptor system in Fragile X mice and tested somatostatin and taurine as potential therapies for Fragile X; while somatostatin must be infused intravenously, taurine is available as a nutritional supplement.
With an $80,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2006-7, Drs. Jay Gibson and Kimberly Huber at the University of Texas at Southwestern examined if the defected inhibitory neurotransmission was a primary or secondary symptom of Fragile X to determine where future treatment targets should be focused.
Alcino Silva, PhD — UCLA with Paul Frankland, PhD, FRAXA Postdoctoral Fellow University of California Los Angelos FRAXA Award: $27,000 in 1999 by Paul Frankland, 8/1/2001 Fragile X syndrome is associated with mild to severe learning disabilities, as well as attentional problems. In 1991, scientists discovered the gene (called FMR1) that causes Fragile X. In people with Fragile X, a defect in the FMR1 shuts the gene down. Like a defective factory, the FMR1 gene cannot manufacture the protein it normally makes. The gene is on strike! The discovery of the Fragile X gene lead to the development of the first Fragile X mouse model. This mutant mouse has been engineered to lack the FMR1 gene, and so, just as in people with Fragile X, no Fragile X protein is manufactured. Because the Fragile X mouse has been found to have learning difficulties, it provides a perfect test ground for
With a $40,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2000, Dr. John Larson and his team at the University of Illinois Chicago used olfaction (sense of smell) in mice as a neuro-behavioral model system for human memory. They characterized olfactory sensitivity, learning, and memory in FMR1 knockout mice as compared to wild-type (normal control) mice.