Category Archives: Research

STAT Wunderkind: Dr. Hsiao-Tuan Chao

NEW3Dr. Hsiao-Tuan Chao, one of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital research team studying MECP2 duplication syndrome and related disorders, has been named as a 2017 STAT Wunderkind. This honor is awarded each year to recognize up-and-coming medical and biotechnology researchers whose careers are blossoming and are expected to be North America’s next generation of leading scientists. This year 27 “Wunderkinds” were selected for this honor out of more than 300 nominations.

Congratulations to Dr. Chao.

 

 

 

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MRIs in MECP2 Duplication Syndrome

MRIThis post provides some information on MRI findings in MECP2 duplication syndrome. It is based mostly on one study by French researchers (El Chehadeh, S., Faivre, L, Mosca-Boidron , et al. 2016)

The study included findings from MRI brain scans from 30 individuals with MECP2 duplication syndrome. The sample included males and females from under one year old to 49 years old. The MECP2 duplications included short and long duplications, duplications on the X chromosome and translocations to other chromosomes. The study was designed to determine if other specific genes included in the duplicated material influenced the observed MRI findings, however, no systematic differences were found. There was some limited evidence of increased atrophy of some structures over time.

The researchers reported that 93% of the individuals studied had significant abnormal findings. Some of the most common findings included

abnormalities or underdevelopment of the corpus callosum (67% of individuals) The corpus callosum is the main connection between the right and left side of the brain. It was frequently described as poorly developed, thin, or missing.

reduced white matter volume (40% of individuals) White matter comprises the area of the brain where most connections are made.

ventricular dilatation (30% of individuals) The ventricles are hollow spaces in the brain that contain fluid

Half of the individuals studied were epileptic and almost all of those had poorly controlled seizures. There was no clear difference in brain structures  and presence or absence of seizures.

Some previous studies have reported similar findings.

One interesting finding was on head circumference. Most individuals were within normal limits, but there were some in the microcephalic range and others in the macrocephalic range.

Reference

El Chehadeh, S., Faivre, L, Mosca-Boidron , et al. (2016). A.Large national series of patients with Xq28 duplication involving MECP2: Delineation of brain MRI abnormalities in 30 affected patients. American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part A, 170A(1):116-29. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.37384.

Cannabidiol Update

strThis week the New England Journal of Medicine published a double-blind study on the effectiveness of Cannabidiol (CBD) on seizures demonstrating that it was safe and effective for kids whose seizures could not be effectively controlled with typical anticonvulsants. The publication of the study set off a media storm with the results reported in hundreds of newspapers and on electronic media. The actual study focused on individuals with a Dravet syndrome diagnosis and so it is difficult to know how well it can be applied to individuals with MECP2 duplication. Nevertheless, there are some interesting findings and likely impacts with potential implications. Continue reading

PubMed: Finding studies

lightbulbAfter my last post, I heard from quite a few people asking how they could find MECP2 Duplication Syndrome research articles and some wanted to more specifically know how to find articles from specific countries. PubMed is a great tool for finding this kind of information and it is available for free to everyone thanks to the the United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. For those interested in finding research articles who are not already using PubMed or other similar tools, here is some basic information to help get you started.

A good place to start is this PubMed web Page. This provides a search window and and lots of helpful hints and tutorials that can help you use this database to find the information you are looking for.

If you want to become an expert or if you get stuck, you can watch some of the tutorials, but most people can find what they are looking for if they dive right in and do some searching. So here is an example.

At the top of the page the search window looks like this.

Books Continue reading

A global research snapshot

Here is some good news! More and more researchers from around the world are doing research that focuses on MECP2 duplication. Here is a quick snapshot of 30 recent studies published in 2016 or early 2017 that shows where the research is being conducted.

Studies

This shows  that increasingly MECP2 duplication syndrome is being studied in countries around the world. While the United States and China account for half of these studies, 11 other countries are contributing to the research efforts.

Seizures in Rett and MECP2 Duplication Syndrome

flaskResearch published in December 2016 provides a bit more information about seizure disorders in MECP2 duplication syndrome, particularly as they compare to seizure disorders in Rett syndrome. In general, this is a great piece of research as it describes the course of seizure disorders in Rett syndrome over a period of years. It emerged from the earlier natural history study. Unfortunately from the the perspective of MECP2 duplication syndrome, this publication is a bit disappointing, not because of any weakness in the sturdy or the reporting, but merely because  the number of participants with MECP2 duplication and the number of observations in the study was relatively small, which only permitted a very limited picture of this group. If there is a lesson for the MECP2 duplication syndrome study to be learned from this study, it may be the importance of participation in the current natural history study in order for researchers to be able to glean useful information.
Nevertheless this study did briefly report some general observations relevant to MECP2 duplication syndrome:

Continue reading

Message to Families about Research

The following is a message from Dr. Sarika Peters at Vanderbilt University:

vumcDear Families:
We at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are conducting a study of the clinical, immune, and stress markers of disease progression in MECP2 Duplication Syndrome. This study is essential for us in order to establish biomarkers of disease progression, as well as potential clinical endpoints for treatment trials.

Both boys and girls are being included in this study. At this time, we are including children between the ages of 3-18 years. We will be asking you to gather blood and saliva samples from your child, and then will be asking some questions related to their overall functioning, regression, seizures, and illnesses. We will follow-up with you once per year for a total of three years.

Although this study does not require an in person visit, if your child has participated in the natural history study, we do request your permission to have access to their clinical information.

At this time, I unfortunately do not have funds to pay for international shipments of samples.

Thank you!!!!

For more information if you are interested, please email: sarika.u.peters@vanderbilt.edu

Touch, Autism, and MECP2

flaskResearchers at Harvard University are suggesting a new theory of autism. They are raising the possibility that atypical neurological responses to touch can play an important role in developing symptoms of autism, and suggesting that abnormal levels of MeCP2 levels in cells that respond to touch can be critical to the development of symptoms of autism.

Experiments with a number of types of genetically engineered laboratory mice, they found autistic-like behavior developed in those without MECP2 activity in touch cells, but not if normal activity was present in touch cells but not in other cells in the body. There are a number of cautions in interpreting this finding and the associated theory, but there are also a number of general observations that make this theory enticing. Continue reading

More Research on Cannabidiol & Seizures

flaskSeveral new studies provide encouraging results about the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil to treat seizure disorders that are not controlled by other medications. Research also, however, points toward important cautions.

Already in 2016,at least nine studies have been published on CBD and seizures. Two 2016 studies, one from Israel (Tzadok et al.,, 2016) and one the United States (Devinsky et al., 2016) are generally reporting particularly encouraging results. This is not to say the others are negative, just less relevant. The two discussed here are important because they include some results Continue reading

Another Big Step Forward with CRISPR

NEW3“Using a previously undescribed approach involving single guide RNA, we successfully removed large genome rearrangement in primary cells of an individual with an X chromosome duplication including MECP2.”

Wojtal, D., Kemaladewi, D. U., Malam, Z., Abdullah, S., Wong, T. W., Hyatt, E., et al. (2016). Spell Checking Nature: Versatility of CRISPR/Cas9 for Developing Treatments for Inherited Disorders. American Journal of Human  Genetics, 98(1), 90-101.

2015 and 2016 have already been marked by some major breakthroughs in potential steps toward treatment of MECP2 Duplication Syndrome. This  report in the American Journal of Human Genetics definitely adds to collection. Continue reading