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Chemical Signals Go Awry in Fragile X Syndrome

Mouse study shows drugs that target the miscommunication may help

MONDAY, Jan. 14, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- New information about how brain cells are affected in Fragile X syndrome -- the most common cause of inherited mental retardation -- has been uncovered.

In the study, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas examined mice to see how Fragile X syndrome affects communication between cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. The team found that two different chemical signals go awry in Fragile X syndrome. This suggests that drugs that interact with these chemical signals may offer a treatment.

The study is published in the current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

"I think we've discovered a core mechanism underlying Fragile X syndrome," senior author Dr. Kimberly Huber, an assistant professor of neuroscience, said in a prepared statement.

"The more we know about how signaling mechanisms in the brain lead to normal memory and learning, the better we can understand what goes wrong in conditions such as Fragile X syndrome," Huber said. "Our research is laying the groundwork for such understanding and indicates a new area for research."

Fragile X syndrome occurs mostly in males and affects about one in every 4,000 white males in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Along with mental deficits ranging from mood disorders to severe mental retardation, people with the syndrome often have distinct physical traits, including an elongated face with protruding ears and hyperflexible joints.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Fragile X syndrome.

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, news release, Jan. 8, 2008
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