RIVERSIDE, Calif. A UC Riverside-led team of biomedical scientists has found that a readily available drug called minocycline, used widely to treat acne and skin infections, can be used to treat Fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of mental impairment and the most common cause of autism.
The study's findings have already impacted future therapies, with the approval of a new clinical trial in Toronto, Canada, that will test minocycline in patients with Fragile X.
Neurons in the brain communicate with each other at specialized contact sites called synapses, with many of these synapses occurring on small mushroom-shaped structures called dendritic spines.
During early development dendritic spines have immature finger-like shapes. But learning stabilizes the synapses and dendritic spines take on a mature mushroom shape, which make them more efficient.
The brains of patients with Fragile X syndrome have an overabundance of immature dendritic spines.
In their report, the researchers, led by Iryna Ethell and Douglas Ethell, faculty members in UCR's Division of Biomedical Sciences, describe how dendritic spine development in mice with Fragile X is delayed by enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are involved in normal brain development and physiological processes. They report that high levels of certain MMPs keep the synapses immature and inefficient.
But minocycline, they found, reduces these MMP levels in the mice, allowing the synapses to mature and make more efficient contacts between neurons in the brain. The outcome: corrected brain abnormalities in dendritic spines, reduced anxiety and improved cognitive function.
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside