Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery Could Lead To New Autism Treatment

Date:
February 5, 2009
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a structure in the brain called the Fragile X granule, which offers a potential target for treating autism and mental retardation.

A Brown University research team has discovered something in the brain that could serve as a target for future autism and mental retardation treatments.

Discovery of the novel Fragile X granule is detailed in the Journal of Neuroscience. This finding opens a new line of research about potential treatments for autism, a neurological disorder that strikes young children and can impair development of social interaction and communication.

“If you are going to treat the disease you need to be able to target the defective elements,” said Justin Fallon, professor of neuroscience at Brown. “The Fragile X granule offers such a target.”

Fallon is senior author of the new paper. Two postdoctoral students at Brown served as lead authors: Sean Christie and Michael Atkins. James Schwob, a researcher from Tufts University Medical School, also participated.

Autism affects as many as 1.5 million Americans, and the number is increasing, according to the Autism Society of America. It is estimated that 1 in 150 births involve children with some form of autism.

Autism can be caused by a variety of genetic factors, but Fallon’s lab focused on one particular area — the Fragile X protein. If that protein is mutated, it leads to Fragile X syndrome, which causes mental retardation and is often accompanied by autism.

There is growing recognition in the field that autism and mental retardation are diseases of the synapse, the basic unit of information exchange and storage in the brain. Many groups have extensively studied the role of the Fragile X protein in the post-synaptic, or receiving side of synaptic connections. This was a starting point for the research conducted by Fallon’s team in their study of the Fragile X protein and synaptic connections in healthy mice.

By examining specially prepared sections of mouse brain tissue with high-powered light and electron microscopes, Fallon’s team made a number of determinations. First, they showed that Fragile X exists at the pre-synaptic, or sending side of the synapse. This is an area that had not been widely studied.

“For over 25 years the field has focused almost exclusively on the post-synaptic, receiving side,” Fallon said. “Almost no one has looked at the pre-synaptic side, as it was not thought to be involved in Fragile X.”

This discovery is important because scientists, if they are to treat Fragile X syndrome, autism or mental retardation must know where the functional defect actually is. Fallon’s research helps fill in a potential gap.

“The implication is that pre-synaptic defects could contribute to the pathology in autism in Fragile X,” Fallon said.

Even more significantly, Fallon and his lab learned that Fragile X protein is only present in a small fraction of what are known as pre-synaptic specializations. The pre-synaptic Fragile X protein also turned out to be present in microscopic granules, which look like tiny pebbles under a high-powered microscope. Understanding the Fragile X granule is important in this context because the finding could lead to more targeted treatments.

Further research is needed, but Fallon’s lab hypothesizes that the granules contain multiple RNAs, or sets of genetic information to help modify the synapse during learning and memory. If their theory is proven correct, the granules might serve as pinpoint targets for eventual drug treatments of autism.

The scientists’ efforts date to 2005; their finding of the Fragile X granules was “serendipity,” Fallon said. The original focus was on developing an improved method for visualizing where Fragile X protein sits in the brain. That new visualization method led to the discovery of the granules.

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and FRAXA, the Fragile X Research Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christie et al. The FXG: A Presynaptic Fragile X Granule Expressed in a Subset of Developing Brain Circuits. Journal of Neuroscience, 2009; 29 (5): 1514 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3937-08.2009

Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Discovery Could Lead To New Autism Treatment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090204174304.htm>.
Brown University. (2009, February 5). Discovery Could Lead To New Autism Treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090204174304.htm
Brown University. "Discovery Could Lead To New Autism Treatment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090204174304.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins