Scientists Uncover Trigger for Fragile X Syndrome

Samie Jaffrey, PhD, at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, FRAXA research grant

A new study led by Weill Cornell Medical College scientists shows that Fragile X syndrome occurs because of a mechanism that shuts off the gene associated with the disease. The findings, published today in Science, also show that a compound that blocks this silencing mechanism can prevent Fragile X syndrome – suggesting a similar therapy may be possible for 20 other diseases that range from mental retardation to multisystem failure.

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Developing IPS cells to Screen Drugs which can Reactivate the FMR1 Gene

Anita Bhattacharyya, PhD

With $146,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation over 2012-2013, Drs. Anita Bhattacharyya and Xinyu Zhao at the University of Wisconsin developed a new mouse model of Fragile X syndrome which will enable testing of gene reactivation and gene therapy approaches to treatment. They transplanted human Fragile X neural cells differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells into brains of neonatal mice and then testing for FMR1 reactivation. In 2015, The John Merck Fund assumed support for this work with a generous grant of $750,000 to the scientists. Results published.

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Small Molecule Screen Using Fragile X Neural Stem Cells

With a $90,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation, Dr. Peng Jin’s team from Emory University School of Medicine found that Fragile X causes an increase production of new cells, so they tested large numbers of drugs to find those that can correct this. This high throughput drug screen uses neural stem cells from Fragile X knockout mice to identify small molecules which may be therapeutic in Fragile X.

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