Could some forms of mental retardation be treated with drugs?

Oct 20, 2009

Growth factors. They are the proteins that trigger a countless number of actions in cells. Drugs that increase or decrease certain growth factors have lead to treatments for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Georgetown University Medical Center researchers say a new understanding of a growth factor implicated in some mental retardation disorders could lead to a novel treatment.

Abnormalities in the number and shape of dendritic spines, the protrusions that allow communication between , have been observed in patients with mental retardation. Previous research led by Baoji Xu, PhD, associate professor in the department of pharmacology, has shown that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth factor synthesized in dendrites, regulates the number and shape of dendritic spines required for spatial learning and memory.

In this work, presented during a symposium at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Xu and his colleagues halted the transport of BDNF to dendritic spines in mice. They found similar abnormalities in dendritic spine development seen in humans with some forms of mental retardation, such as . The mice also exhibited impaired learning and memory.

These results highlight the role of BDNF in , Xu says, and indicate that increasing the transport of these growth factors may be a way to treat these conditions.

Source: Georgetown University Medical Center (news : web)

Explore further: Researchers investigating new treatment for multiple sclerosis

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Location, location, location

Jul 10, 2008

Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have solved a mystery that lies at the heart of human learning, and they say the solution may help explain some forms of mental retardation as well as provide clues ...

Molecular 'foreman' discovered for brain wiring

Nov 21, 2007

Researchers have identified a master regulatory molecule that is responsible for triggering the remodeling of neuronal connections that is critical for learning. Malfunctioning of the connection-remodeling machinery that ...

Fragile X retardation syndrome corrected in mice

Dec 19, 2007

Researchers working with mice have significantly alleviated a wide range of abnormalities due to fragile X syndrome by altering only a single gene, countering the effects of the fragile X mutation. They said their achievement ...

APP -- Good, bad or both?

Oct 18, 2009

New data about amyloid precursor protein, or APP, a protein implicated in development of Alzheimer's disease, suggests it also may have a positive role -- directly affecting learning and memory during brain development. So ...

Recommended for you

Xenon exposure shown to erase traumatic memories

15 hours ago

McLean Hospital researchers are reporting that xenon gas, used in humans for anesthesia and diagnostic imaging, has the potential to be a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other memory-related disorders.

Stop and listen: Study shows how movement affects hearing

16 hours ago

When we want to listen carefully to someone, the first thing we do is stop talking. The second thing we do is stop moving altogether. This strategy helps us hear better by preventing unwanted sounds generated ...

User comments : 0