Brain development timing crucial for Fragile X

22 February 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

hug-mother.jpgSlower brain development may be the reason some children reject all physical affection, research on mice has shown.

Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition which can affect a child's physical and mental health, often causing children to reject physical affection. It is caused by a change in a specific DNA sequence which codes for the protein FRMP, needed in the development of neurons. When the protein is lost, nerve cells are unable to develop properly. New research has been looking at the development of affected cells in mouse models.

Researchers studied the interaction of brain cells with touch sensors on the whiskers of mice, during the first few weeks of life. This is an important period as the brain creates a ‘map of neurons' which is shaped and altered before becoming fixed later in life. Scientists found higher levels of the protein FRMP in control mice during the critical early period than in mice with the syndrome, suggesting it is needed in to help develop the sense of touch.

Brains of Fragile X mice also showed signs of mapping activity after the normal time it ends at 21 days. This may be because the lack of the protein causes neurons take longer to mature and become fixed.

Although both groups of mice had similar maps by the end of the development stage, the research illustrates that the presence of the protein, and timing, are both crucial factors. However researchers hope to study condition in humans to see if mistiming is an important contributing factor to Fragile X in children.