Daniel Glaze, MD, Medical Director of the Blue Bird Circle Rett Center and a Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Neurology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, discusses the current state of Rett Syndrome. Dr. Glaze has worked with Rett Syndrome patients for many years and although girls with Rett syndrome have complex and lifelong neurological and medical needs that are unique, there is also hope in the current clinical trials.
Rett syndrome is a progressive, neuro-developmental condition that primarily affects girls. Affected girls appear to have normal psychomotor development during the first 6 to 18 months of life, followed by a developmental “plateau,” and then rapid regression in language and motor skills. Additional signs and symptoms may include repetitive, stereotypic hand movements; fits of screaming and inconsolable crying; autistic features; panic-like attacks; teeth grinding (bruxism); episodic apnea and/or hyperpnea; gait ataxia and apraxia; tremors; seizures; and slowed head growth. Some people have an atypical form of Rett syndrome that may be more mild or more severe. Classic Rett syndrome is most commonly caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene and is usually inherited in an X-linked dominant manner. The vast majority of cases are not inherited from a parent, but are due to a new mutation in the affected person. Treatment mainly focuses on the specific signs and symptoms of the condition.
Researchers don’t know exactly how many people have Rett syndrome. Current estimates suggest that this condition occurs in about 1 in every 10,000 girls worldwide. In the United States, the estimate is that Rett syndrome affects between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 22,000 females.
Rett syndrome is typically caused by changes (mutations) in the MECP2 gene. This gene provides instructions for making a protein (MeCP2) needed for the development of the nervous system and normal brain function. Mutations in the MECP2 gene that cause Rett syndrome can change the MeCP2 protein or result in the production of too little protein, which appears to disrupt the normal function of neurons and other cells in the brain.