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New innovations: Therapeutic opportunities for intellectual disabilities

Authors

  • Jonathan D. Picker MBChB, PhD,

    1. Division of Genetics, Boston Children's Hospital, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston, MA
    2. Departments of Pediatrics and Neurology,, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
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  • Christopher A. Walsh MD, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Genetics, Boston Children's Hospital, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston, MA
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Abstract

Intellectual disability is common and is associated with significant morbidity. Until the latter half of the 20th century, there were no efficacious treatments. Following initial breakthroughs associated with newborn screening and metabolic corrections, little progress was made until recently. With improved understanding of genetic and cellular mechanisms, novel treatment options are beginning to appear for a number of specific conditions. Fragile X and tuberous sclerosis offer paradigms for the development of targeted therapeutics, but advances in understanding of other disorders such as Down syndrome and Rett syndrome, for example, are also resulting in promising treatment directions. In addition, better understanding of the underlying neurobiology is leading to novel developments in enzyme replacement for storage disorders and adjunctive therapies for metabolic disorders, as well as potentially more generalizable approaches that target dysfunctional cell regulation via RNA and chromatin. Physiologic therapies, including deep brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation, offer yet another direction to enhance cognitive functioning. Current options and evolving opportunities for the intellectually disabled are reviewed and exemplified. Ann Neurol 2013;74:382–390

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