What is Fragile X syndrome? Symptoms explained and why sperm donor with condition is banned from seeing kids

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There are a wide range of characteristics associated with Fragile X syndrome

A man with an incurable genetic condition who advertised his sperm to lesbians on social media has been banned from contacting some of the children he fathered.

James MacDougall, 37, has Fragile X syndrome, which causes a range of developmental problems including learning difficulties and cognitive impairment.

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A family court judge named MacDougall after finding he “took advantage of these young women’s vulnerability and their strong desire to have children”.

Mrs Justice Lieven said MacDougall showed “fundamental irresponsibility” by not being upfront about his condition, which prevented him from being a sperm donor through a regulated clinic.

But what is Fragile X syndrome and what are the signs and symptoms?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Fragile X syndrome?

Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is a genetic condition which can cause a wide range of difficulties with learning, as well as social, language, attentional, emotional, and behavioural problems.

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The Fragile X Society website said some may experience connective tissue issues such as difficulty breastfeeding, hypotonia, hyperflexibility, flat feet, recurrent ear infections and mitral valve prolapse.

The website added: “FXS is the most common inherited cause of learning disability.”

What are the characteristics of Fragile X?

There are a wide range of characteristics associated with Fragile X, but an individual person may only experience some of these.

They include:

  • Learning Disabilities
  • Behaviour and communication - short attention span, distractibility, impulsiveness, restlessness, over activity and sensory problems.
  • Autistic-like features - Some children and adults show autistic-like features including avoiding eye contact, anxiety in social situations, insistence on familiar routines and hand flapping or hand biting. 
  • Strengths - strengths associated with Fragile X include good imitation skills, visual learning and long-term memories. Those living with Fragile X are also often described as having likeable personalities, being sensitive to others’ emotions and as having a good sense of humour.
  • Physical Characteristics - there are some physical features associated with Fragile X, including a long narrow face with prominent jaw bones and ears however.

How is Fragile X tested for?

Testing for Fragile X is carried out by a DNA blood test. The discovery of the Fragile X gene in 1991 led to the development of reliable DNA tests which can be used to identify affected individuals and carriers.

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The Fragile X Society said: “Fragile X Syndrome is the most common inherited cause of learning disability, and we recommend that testing for Fragile X Syndrome is considered for all people with a learning disability or developmental delay.

“Fragile X testing should also be considered for anyone with autism or autistic-like behaviours, as Fragile X is thought to underlie up to 1 in 20 cases of autism.

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