1247 GMT May 24, 2019
Fragile X Syndrome is the most common genetic cause of autism spectrum disorders. It affects around one in 4,000 boys and one in 6,000 girls. Currently, there is no cure, Science Daily wrote.
The scientists, who have identified a chemical pathway that goes awry in the brains of Fragile X patients, say a cancer drug candidate could reverse their behavioral symptoms. The researchers have found that a naturally occurring anti-fungal called cercosporamide can block the pathway and improve sociability in mice with the condition.
The team identified a key molecule, eIF4E, that drives excess protein production in the brains of Fragile X patients. This can cause behavioral symptoms that include learning difficulties. It can also lead to more serious intellectual disabilities, delays in speech and language development and problems with social interactions.
"We found that eIF4E regulates the production of an enzyme called MMP-9, which breaks down and re-orders the connections between brain cells called synapses," says Nahum Sonenberg, McGill professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the Goodman Cancer Research Centre and co-author of the study, "Excess MMP-9 disrupts communication between brain cells, leading to changes in behavior."
The team found that treatment with cercosporamide blocks the activity of eIF4E, and therefore reduces the amounts of MMP-9, and reverses the behavioral symptoms in mice with a version of Fragile X Syndrome. The new findings suggest that it could have a use as a treatment for patients with Fragile X Syndrome.