In their experiments, the Ethells found that young Fragile X mice treated with minocycline showed an increase of dendritic spine maturation in the hippocampus, a brain area that is critical for learning and memory. Besides less anxiety, minocycline-treated mice showed better exploration skills as compared to untreated mice.
The Ethells are enthusiastic about how their discovery already is leading to a clinical trial.
"Clinical studies often quickly follow such basic science because once there is a solid understanding of how problems arise, it is much easier to come up with solutions," said Iryna Ethell, an associate professor of biomedical sciences.
The study was funded by a grant from the FRAXA Research Foundation. FRAXA was founded in 1994 by three parents of children with Fragile X to support scientific research aimed at finding a treatment and a cure for Fragile X.
Dr. Michael Tranfaglia, FRAXA's chief scientific officer, said of the UCR researchers, "This group has done something unique and incredibly valuable: They have identified an off-the-shelf treatment for Fragile X through their basic research. By bringing their unique perspective to Fragile X research, they have helped us to understand why neurons are malformed in this disorder, and more importantly, how we can treat it.
"We were so impressed with their work that we just awarded Dr. Iryna Ethell the FRAXA Breakthrough Award for 2008. This is easily the most important scientific breakthrough in the Fragile X field in many years."
According to Dr. Carl Paribello, president of Fragile X Research Foundation of Canada and the director of the clinical trial (scheduled for early 2009) at Surrey Place Centre Fragile X Clinic in Toronto, Canada, the UCR-led study "will go a long way towards dispelling the i
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside