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Humanizing a Mouse Learning ‘Maze’ for NF1 Clinical Trials

By February 11, 2010December 18th, 2023Science & Research

The 2005 report by Alcino Silva’s group that mice with genetically-based NF1 related learning disabilities showed improved learning and memory abilities following treatment with statin drugs quickly advanced to patient testing, and these drugs are now in Phase II NF1 clinical trials.  However a challenge has been adapting the tests used to monitor mouse learning to one that can be used in humans, to see if the drug is working in patients.  Now researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston have developed a computer-based virtual ‘Arena Maze’ modeled on the Morris Water Maze in which mice must memorize the location of a platform in a water pool, and know to swim to that platform. Tests comparing children with NF1 related learning disabilities, and their unaffected brother or sister, verified that the Arena Maze can differentiate between the two children and therefore should be able to pick up improvements following drug treatment. This research could help improve design of future NF1 clinical trials for learning disabilities drugs. Study authors Dr. Nicole Ullrich and Dr. Mira Irons head the CTF NF Clinic Network Affiliate Clinic at Children’s Hospital, and Dr, Ullrich is a member of the CTF Research Advisory Board.