Mercer University’s College of Pharmacy recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support research to improve outcomes for individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS).
The grant’s principal investigator is Clinton Canal, Ph.D., whose laboratory seeks to understand how unique serotonin (5-HT) receptors function. There are no medications approved for FXS, and Dr. Canal’s lab is focused on investigating 5-HT receptors as targets for FXS drug discovery. Numerous studies have reported alterations in the serotonin system in FXS and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), yet knowledge regarding the impact of specific 5-HT receptors on FXS phenotypes is lacking.
FXS, caused by inactivation of the FMR1 gene, is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability and of ASD. Up to 31% of children with FXS also have a seizure disorder.
“This new study will look at whether selectively activating serotonin 5-HT1A and selectively inactivating 5-HT7 receptors during an early developmental sensitive period prevents seizures and corrects alterations in brain activity in FXS mice,” said Dr. Canal, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
The NIH Research Enhancement Award (R15) for $424,499 over three years is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Dr. Canal joined Mercer’s faculty in July 2017, having previously served as a research assistant professor in the Center for Drug Discovery at Northeastern University. He earned his B.S. in psychology from the University of Florida and Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.