080210xf's Blog

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

Scientists flash videos of brain development in fragile X

SFARI, Virginia Hughes

Scientists have devised a technique to watch, in real time, the dynamic ebb and flow of brain connections in young mouse models of fragile X syndrome. The findings appeared in June in the Journal of Neuroscience1.

Postmortem tissue from people with the syndrome2 and static images of the brains of young mouse models3 have both shown that fragile X brains look much less mature than do the brains of control animals. For example, they have abnormally long and dense dendritic spines — the slender neuronal projections that receive electrical messages from other cells and that are heavily pruned during development.

The new work shows, however, that dendrites in the fragile X brain appear more normal than those studies suggested.

“This is a big deal,” notes Anis Contractor, assistant professor of physiology at Northwestern University, who was not involved in the study. “It contradicts the dogma in the field that in all parts of the cortex [in fragile X] there’s this immature, delayed development.”

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