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Fragile X Syndrome

Overview :

Fragile X syndrome is also known as Martin-Bell syndrome, Marker X syndrome, and FRAXA syndrome. It is the most common form of inherited mental retardation. Fragile X syndrome is caused by a mutation in the FMR-1 gene, located on the X chromosome. The role of the gene is unclear, but it is probably important in early development.

In order to understand fragile X syndrome it is important to understand how human genes and chromosomes influence this condition. Normally, each cell in the body contains 46 (23 pairs of) chromosomes. These chromosomes consist of genetic material (DNA) needed for the production of proteins, which lead to growth, development, and physical/intellectual characteristics. The first 22 pairs of chromosomes are the same in males and females. The remaining two chromosomes are called the sex chromosomes (X and Y). The sex chromosomes determine whether a person is male or female. Males have only one X chromosome, which is inherited from the mother at conception, and they receive a Y chromosome from the father. Females inherit two X chromosomes, one from each parent. Fragile X syndrome is caused by a mutation in a gene called FMR-1. This gene is located on the X chromosome. The FMR-1 gene is thought to play an important role in the development of the brain, but the exact way that the gene acts in the body is not fully understood.

Fragile X syndrome affects males and females of all ethnic groups. It is estimated that there are about one in 4,000 to one in 6,250 males affected with fragile X syndrome. There are approximately one-half as many females with fragile X syndrome as there are males. The carrier frequency in unaffected females is one in 100 to one in 600, with one study finding a carrier frequency of one in 250.

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