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Is the Answer Right in Front of Us?

MIT researcher Mark Bear says that biotechs hold the key to treating autism and some forms of mental retardation, with the drugs that are already on their lab shelves, says the Forbes Treatments blog's Robert Langreth. Bear's "radical" new theory suggest that a specific class of drug already developed by drug companies may help patients with an inherited disease, fragile X syndrome, which is thought to be a cause of autism. Roche has already begun testing an old class of experimental anxiety drugs called mGluR5 inhibitors in patients with fragile X syndrome, Langreth says. Biotech company Seaside Therapeutics — co-founded by Bear — has licensed a similar drug from Merck, and plans to start testing on people with fragile X next year. Bear's work with mice shows that patients with fragile X make too much of a protein that prevents the brain from learning properly, and he believes that adjusting the protein's levels pharmaceutically can reverse the problem, Langreth says. Though there is still a lot of work to be done, Bear is optimistic about being able to treat fragile X with these drugs, he adds.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.