New Study Shows Promise for Treatment of Rett Syndrome
New research has found that the genetic mutation of the MeCP2 gene responsible for Rett Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, can be reversed pharmacologically in mice. The results of the experiments, conducted at the University of Edinburgh laboratories of Dr. Adrian Bird, were published Feb. 8, 2007, in an advance electronic version of Science magazine.
Rett Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder which deprives children of speech, normal movement and hand use. Many girls affected with Rett Syndrome also show symptoms of autism spectrum disorder early in development, including social and language impairments, as well as regression of behavioral milestones and seizures.
Rett Syndrome is caused by mutations in a gene responsible for the gene product, or protein, methyl-CpG binding protein 2, or MeCP2. MeCP2 binds to “marked” DNA to silence, or turn off, adjacent genes. Subsequently, the silenced genes do not produce their respective proteins. In the case of Rett Syndrome, MeCP2 is non-functional. The MeCP2 target genes that would otherwise be silenced are now expressed, or turned on inappropriately, and may contribute to the clinical features of RTT.
Of interest to autism spectrum disorders, the lab of Dr. Janine LaSalle at UC Davis found mutations in the MeCP2 protein in brain tissue in individuals affected with autism. This suggests that MeCP2 mutations may contribute to autism spectrum disorders.
The recent report by the Bird lab in Scotland demonstrates that using an animal model, mutations in the MeCP2 gene may be reversed, leading to improvements in markers of cell function and behavior. The findings are encouraging to the ability to treat neurodevelopmental disorders with a genetic basis, even in adulthood.
For more on this study, look below.
Director of Research, RSRF
FEBRUARY 8, 2007
REVERSAL OF SYMPTOMS IN AN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
Rett Syndrome is reversed in genetic mouse model
Cincinnati, OH (February 8, 2007) -The Rett Syndrome Research Foundation (RSRF) announces results of a landmark study reversing the symptoms of Rett Syndrome (RTT) in a genetic mouse model. The findings, by Adrian Bird, Ph.D., of the University of Edinburgh and Chairman of the RSRF Scientific Advisory Board, appear online in Science Express on February 8, 2007. Rett Syndrome is a severe childhood neurological disease that is the most physically disabling of the autism spectrum disorders. The experiments were funded by the Rett Syndrome Research Foundation (RSRF), the Wellcome Trust and the Rett Syndrome U.K./Jeans for Genes.
Caused by mutations in the gene MECP2, RTT affects primarily girls, striking at random in early childhood and destroying speech, normal movement and functional hand use. Many children become wheelchair bound; those who walk display an abnormal, stiff-legged gait. Disordered breathing patterns and Parkinson-like tremors are common.
Restoration of fully functional MECP2 over a four week period eradicated tremors and normalized breathing, mobility and gait in mice that had previously been fully symptomatic and, in some cases, only days away from death.
“Like many other people, we expected that giving MECP2 to mice that were already sick would not work,” said Bird. “The idea that you could put back an essential component after the damage to the brain is done and recover an apparently normal mouse seemed farfetched, as nerve cells that developed in the absence of a key component were assumed to be irrevocably damaged. The results are gratifyingly clear, though, and must give hope to those who are affected by this distressing disorder.”
Bird is Buchanan Professor of Genetics at University of Edinburgh and Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology. MECP2, first identified by Bird in 1990, is considered to be a protein that regulates the expression of other genes by turning them off at the appropriate time.
In 1999 Huda Zoghbi, M.D., Professor, Departments of Molecular and Human Genetics, Pediatrics, Neurology, and Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine discovered that RTT is caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene. Mutations in MECP2 are now being seen in some cases of childhood schizophrenia, classic autism and learning disabilities.
“The findings are extraordinary, and are of relevance not only to Rett Syndrome but to a much broader class of disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. The successful restoration of normal function demonstrated in the mouse models suggests that if we can develop therapies to address the loss of MECP2 we may be able to reverse neurological damage in children and adults with Rett, autism and related neuropsychiatric disorders,” commented Zoghbi.
The reversal experiments were carried out in the Bird lab by research assistant Jacky Guy. Employing technology known as Cre-lox recombination, she created mouse models in which MECP2 was silenced by insertion of a Stop cassette into the gene, resulting in the neurological deficits seen in RTT. Silencing could be reversed at will by removing the Stop cassette, thereby reactivating the MECP2 gene. This was achieved by treating the mice with a drug that caused the enzyme Cre to enter the cell nucleus where it could splice out the cassette.
As well as losing overt behavioral defects, the mice also recovered a key electrophysiological function of the brain. This was determined by measuring LTP (long-term potentiation) which provides a quantifiable measurement of the ability of neurons to respond to stimulation. LTP has long been thought to reflect the cellular basis of learning and memory. Though LTP in RTT mice models was defective, it was restored to normal function by the reversal experiments.
“The reversal of neurological defects, reported in the remarkable article by Guy et al, is surprising because the cause of the symptoms occurred early in development and was expected to be permanent. Of particular note is the recovery of LTP, which is the best current physiological correlate of learning and memory. These findings are very encouraging for those searching for a treatment because they give hope that the symptoms could not only be halted from progressing, but the course of the disease itself may be able to be reversed,” stated Fred Gage, Ph.D. of the Salk Institute of Biological Studies.
“Dr. Bird’s astonishing results usher in a new era for Rett Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders. The reversal experiments provide justification for aggressive exploration of next steps on all fronts, from drug discovery to gene correction. The Rett Syndrome Research Foundation will be focused on a comprehensive effort to identify and speed treatments to the children and adults in dire need of them,” commented Monica Coenraads, co-founder and Director of Research for RSRF and mother of a young daughter with the disorder.
About the Rett Syndrome Research Foundation
The Rett Syndrome Research Foundation (www.rsrf.org) was created in late 1999 and is the largest private source of funds for biomedical research on Rett Syndrome.
About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK and the second largest medical research charity in the world. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £500 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing. www.wellcome.ac.uk
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.