A developmental disability caused by a mutated gene on the X chromosome can be reversed by a second mutation, at least in mice. Fragile X syndrome, which causes attention deficiency, anxiety and cognitive dissonance, affects one in 4,000 boys and one in 6,000 girls. It is caused by a mutation of a gene called fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1). As a result of this mutation, the body does not produce enough of the gene's corresponding protein. Mansuo Hayashi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his team found a way to counter the deficiency—namely, by suppressing the gene for the enzyme p21-activated kinase. If this process works in humans, then reversing fragile X might be possible with a drug that inhibits the production of p21-activated kinase. The work appears in the July 3 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
Developmental Disorder in Mice Reversed
This article was originally published with the title "Developmental Disorder in Mice Reversed" in Scientific American 297, 3, 36 (September 2007)