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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fight Autism

A treatment for inherited Autism and developmental disorders may be closer than thought,with new understanding of the Fragile X syndrome,the most common inherited cause of mental impairment,emerging.

In a research paper published in the jouranl Neuron on December 20,scientists have demonstrated that the symptoms of Fragile X can be reversed in mice that were genetically engineered to manifest the symptoms found in humans. Fragile X syndrome is associated with developmental disorders such as learning disorders,attention deficit disorder and vulnerability to seizures. A third of those with the syndrome are autistic.

The paper is co-authored by seven scientists,including two are bangalore based : Sumantra Chattarji, Professor,National Centre for Biological Sciences; and B.S.Shankaranarayana Rao,Associate Professor,NIMHANS.

The paper discusses the "Major therapeutic implications" of this finding and possibilities of developing drugs to treat the disorder. " We have known for a long time now that individuals with the Fragile X syndrome have very low concentrations of an important protein,FMRP ( Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein ), which is instrumental in the developmental of the brain and in the forming of synaptic connections "explains Prof.Chattarji.

The new understanding pertains to its interaction with another protein,called mGluR5 (metabotropic glutamate receptor), the level of which increases in people with reduce FMRP. This contributes to the disorder,preventing neural connections from maturing, he says

Says Dr.Rao : " Our research shows that by reducing mGluR5 by 50% in mice, immature connections in the brain grew into mature synapses, the ability of the brain to process information improved, incidence of seizures reduced and social interaction increased "

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