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Mental Health Channel
Reported December 23, 2011

The Key to Autism? Fragile X Marks the Spot

SACRAMENTO, CA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- You have probably never heard of it, but one in three kids with autism has it. Fragile X syndrome is a developmental disorder that can be diagnosed while your baby’s still in the womb. Now a new treatment is helping kids with the condition get rid of symptoms.

Holly is her mom’s little princess, but this girl’s fairytale started with a scare. While pregnant with Holly, Vicki Davis found out she was a carrier of fragile X syndrome.

“I had never heard of it.  I had no clue what it was,” Vicki Davis told Ivanhoe.

It is a mutation of a gene on the X chromosome that leads to a lack of protein production critical for development. It’s one of the most common causes of mental retardation and autism.

“30% of individuals with fragile X syndrome have full autism.  Another 30% have an autism spectrum disorder,” Randi Hagerman, M.D., medical director of the mind institute and professor of pediatrics at University of California Davis Medical Center, said.

Randi Hagerman of the mind institute says she first met Holly when she was just a few months old. The infant’s fragile X syndrome was subtle.  But “she was extremely delayed,” Dr. Hagerman said.

As part of a clinical trial Holly started taking a serotonin medication.  Then minocycline, a common antibiotic normally used to treat acne was added to her regimen.

“Her developmental testing just improved remarkably,” Dr.Hagerman said.

Holly did not start talking until she was two and a half. Vicki says additional minocycline treatments around that time helped her catch up to other kids and even excel. At just four she started reading.

“The medication really helped her create some of those pathways that taught her how to learn,” Vicki said.

Doctor Hagerman hopes the treatments that helped Holly could do the same for autistic kids and that could mean a lot more children living happily ever after.

Doctor Hagerman tells us the drugs Holly was treated with have a few side effects like some gastro-intestinal issues, and rare severe headaches. She says the drug treatment can be used in older kids with fragile X, however the results might not be as dramatic. The Mind Institute is currently testing other investigational drugs to improve core symptoms of fragile X syndrome for five to 25 year olds. MORE

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Click here for additional research on They Key to Autism? Fragile X Marks the Spot

Click here for Ivanhoe's full-length interview with Dr. Randi Hagerman

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com

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