Many learning disabilities have, for a long time, been regarded as issues treatable only by therapies and other alternative techniques with medication often being unable to yield any measureable results.
However, a recent study into a drug which was originally designed to help patients with cancer has suggested it may see use in the treatment of ‘Fragile X’ – a learning disability which has similar symptoms to autism.
Fragile X is an inherited learning disability and one of the most prevalent of its type, affecting an average of around 1 in every 5,000 people.
Much like the autism spectrum of conditions, this learning disability encompasses various symptoms including limited attention span, social anxiety and problems with speech and communication to name but a few.
Researchers came across this discovery after conducting trials on mice with a cancer drug named ‘Nutlin-3’ which is commonly used to impede the growth rate of cancer cells.
Mice which lacked a specific gene involved in the development of memories were selected for the series of tests in which the drug was able to fully restore their abilities.
The behaviour of the mice was observed to see how they reacted when presented with one object which was then followed by the introduction of another once the animals had become familiar with the first.
Mice which did not have an impaired memory would identify the second object as being ‘new’ and spend the majority of their time examining it whereas the mice which lacked the memory development gene would spend an equal amount of time with both.
After taking Nutlin-3, both groups of mice were seen to exhibit identical behaviour during additional testing later in the trial – a clear sign of a restoration in memory as a result of using the drug.
Scientists are hopeful it will be possible for Nutlin-3 to be utilised for human treatment and achieve the same results in the future.
At present, it is expected that the use of the aforementioned drug may be used to greatly alleviate symptoms associated with Fragile X, however, it may not be possible for it to provide a definitive cure.
Despite this, the findings suggest a promising step forward in scientists’ endeavours to obtain additional treatments for Fragile X as well as to help improve the lives of people living with similar conditions.
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