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Health Information In the News: Discover Rush Spring 2013

Treatment for fragile X syndrome, autism

There are plenty of questions and uncertainty when it comes to treatment options for fragile X syndrome and autism. But a recent study provides new possibilities.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center and the University of California, Davis MIND Institute found that an investigational compound that targets the underlying brain mechanisms in fragile X effectively helps with social avoidance — one of the core deficits in both fragile X and autism spectrum disorders. Fragile X syndrome is the most common known cause of inherited intellectual impairment. It is also the leading known single-gene cause of autism.

The study found that the drug compound STX 209 by Seaside Therapeutics improved symptoms in study participants with fragile X and significant social deficits or autism. Additional studies suggest that

STX 209 may be helpful for autism without fragile X syndrome, as well. This treatment is the first such discovery for fragile X syndrome and, potentially, the first for autism.

"This study will help to signal the beginning of a new era of targeted treatments for genetic disorders that have historically been regarded as beyond the reach of treatment with medications," says Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD, the lead author of the study and a pediatric neurologist at Rush.

Emotional neglect increases risk of stroke

The experiences of your childhood often shape who you are emotionally and mentally. Now research shows that how you were treated as a child can affect your physical health as well.

A study by researchers at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center suggests that people who were emotionally neglected as children may have a higher risk of stroke later in adulthood. In the study, participants in the Memory and Aging Project (who did not have dementia and were 55 years of age or older) took a survey measuring physical and emotional abuse before age 18.

Questions focused on whether participants felt loved by their parents or caregivers when they were younger, whether they were made to feel afraid or intimidated, and whether they were punished physically.

The study, published in an online issue of Neurology, found the risk of stroke was nearly three times higher in people who reported a moderately high level of childhood emotional neglect than those who reported a moderately low level.

"The results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that early-life factors, such as traumatic childhood experiences, influence the development of physical illness and common chronic conditions of old age," says David Bennett, MD, director of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center and co-author of the study.

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