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Science surprise: Toxic protein made in unusual way may explain brain disorder
Date:4/18/2013

protein and that this causes a toxicity in nerve cells," he explains. "We believe that the protein forms aggregates, and that this is a major contributor to toxicity and symptoms in FXTAS."

The U-M group went on to show how this RAN translation occurs in FXTAS and demonstrated that blocking it prevents the repeat mutation from being toxic, suggesting a new target for future treatments.

Fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome or FXTAS was only discovered a decade ago. It may affect as many as one in every 3,000 men and one in 20,000 women, who have a repeat mutation in the gene known as FMR1. However, these patients don't usually develop symptoms until late middle age, allowing them to pass the mutation on to their daughters, who can then have children where the DNA repeat that has grown much longer. In those children, especially in boys, it can cause severe intellectual disability and autism-like symptoms as the FMR1 gene shuts down and none of the normal protein is produced.

In fact, says Todd, it's often only after a child is diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome through genetic testing that their grandfather or grandmother finds out that their own symptoms stem from FXTAS. Doctors in U-M's Neurogenetics clinic for adults, and the Pediatric Genetics Clinic at U-M's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, routinely work together to address the needs of Fragile X families.

"We have some treatments for the symptoms that FXTAS patients have, but we do not yet have a cure," says Todd, who regularly sees patients with FXTAS and related disorders. "Better treatments are needed and this new discovery might help lead to novel strategies for clearing away or preventing the buildup of this toxic protein."

In addition, he says, the discovery that Fragile X ataxia results in part from RAN translation could have significance both for other diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease) and certain forms of
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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