The Fragile X Chromosome is the most common form of human mental retardation. A mutation in a single gene is all that is needed to create the Fragile X Syndrome and pass it on from one generation to the next.
Symptoms of Fragile X syndrome occur because the mutated gene cannot produce enough of a protein that is needed by the body’s cells, especially cells in the brain, to develop and function normally. The amount and usability of this protein, in part, determine how severe the effects of Fragile X are.
The most noticeable and consistent effect of Fragile X is on intelligence. More than 80 percent of males with Fragile X have an IQ (intelligence quotient) of 75 or less. The effect of Fragile X on intelligence is more variable in females. Some females have mental impairment, some have learning disabilities, and some have a normal IQ.
Males suffer most from Fragile X:
Fragile X arises from abnormalities in a gene designated FMR 1 (fragile X mental retardation 1), which is located on the X chromosome. Females who inherit a diseased X chromosome from one parent and a healthy X from the second parent often have relatively subtle symptoms of disease, since the healthy X masks abnormalities in the diseased counterpart. Affected males, however, because they carry only one X chromosome and do not benefit from the masking effect, are more likely to experience severe symptoms.
Drug companies are stepping into the void with research and remedies to try to retroactively reconstruct Fragile X into something more robust and less brittle — which suggests that the mental retardation of current sufferers might well be alleviated or even “cured” through ongoing pharmaceutical intervention:
Not surprisingly, designing an agent to mimic FMRP is of significant interest to pharmaceutical companies. To date, four entities—Novartis, Roche, Neuropharm, and a start-up called Seaside—have seized the opportunity. Seaside collaborators recently completed a trial in humans to assess the safety of the mGluR antagonist fenobam. The company now has plans to begin a trial to determine whether fenobam is actually effective in fragile X patients. Researchers are hopeful that the drug will reduce seizures, improve memory, and normalize development in affected individuals. Meanwhile, Novartis, Neuropharm, and Roche are conducting trials of other mGluR antagonists.
If drugs can make the intellectually disabled smarter by strengthening Fragile X — can you imagine how quickly non-Fragile X sufferers would demand the “Fragile X” fix to “cement up” and “reinforce” their own — perfectly strong enough — non-diseased X chromosome?
If there’s one universal truth about the human race that must be won — it is in the contest for getting smarter by any memes — and if there’s one condition for which you cannot become lazy or satisfied, it is the one that measures the merits of your intellectual capacity. You can’t afford not to get smarter.
If a “Smart Pill” were ever introduced to fix Fragile X, it would quickly become a mainstream mania as every able-bodied bully roiled for a prescription to start popping pills to get a mindful leg up on the competition.
The “Fragile X” pill would be the fastest selling drug in the history of humankind — even if it didn’t work on those who are unaffected by Fragile X in the first place. Sometimes perception is more important than intelligence. There’s power in the placebo.