080210xf's Blog

L'X fragile sera vaincu | Fragile X will be conquered

Archive for March, 2010

Autism and fragile X feature immune signatures

Kelly Rae Chi, Sfari.org

Scientists have identified distinct blood signatures of cytokines — proteins that control communication between cells of the immune system — in individuals with developmental disorders.

The study is the first to report cytokine profiles in people with fragile X syndrome, the most common single-gene cause of autism. The type and the number of cytokines vary depending on whether an individual is healthy, has fragile X syndrome or has both fragile X syndrome and autism, the study found1.

The results, published 25 January in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, add to research showing that certain cytokines are elevated, and others depleted, in people with autism2. Although scientists don’t know yet if cytokine patterns could reliably predict fragile X or autism — in part because they measure cytokine levels in the blood and not in the brain — the study adds heft to a long-standing hypothesis that the immune system goes awry in both disorders. (…)

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A change of mind

Plasticity — the brain’s ability to change in response to external input — is critical for most cognitive functions, including learning and memory. Those changes usually involve a strengthening or weakening of synapses, the connections between brain cells (neurons).

MIT neuroscientists have now found that a single protein, known as Arc, appears to control neurons’ ability to strengthen and weaken their synapses by regulating the number of neurotransmitter receptors on their surfaces. The finding could help researchers identify new drug targets for Fragile X and Angelman syndromes — inherited forms of mental retardation that have been linked to deficits of Arc.

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