Rett syndrome is a progressive, usually sporadic and rarely familial, disabling neurodevelopmental disorder with onset in early childhood presenting clinically with mental retardation, behavioral changes, late movement disturbances, loss of speech and hand skills, ataxia, apraxia, irregular breathing with hyperventilation while awake, and frequent seizures. It occurs almost exclusively in females with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 10–22,000 births and is considered a manifestation of defective brain maturation caused by dominant mutation of the MeCP2 gene encoding the transcriptional repressor methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 related to the Xq28 locus. Although many different mutations of this protein are being studied in humans and in mice, the molecular pathogenesis of this disorder remains unclear. Electroencephalography is abnormal in the final stages of the syndrome. Neuroimaging showing brain atrophy may be required for differential diagnosis that includes neurodegenerative and metabolic disorders. Neuropathology shows decreased brain growth and reduced size of individual neurons, with thinned dendrites in some cortical layers and abnormalities in substantia nigra (decreased neuromelanin content), suggestive of deficient synaptogenic development, probably starting before birth. Neurometabolic changes include reduced levels of dopamine, serotonin, noradrenalin, choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), nerve growth factors, endorphines, glutamate, and other amino acids and their receptor levels in brain. Current treatment includes symptomatic, anticonvulsive and physiotherapy.
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