Holly is her mom's little princess. But her fairytale started with a scare. Her mother, Vicki Davis, learned while pregnant with Holly, that she was a carrier of Fragile X Syndrome.
"I had never heard of it. I had no clue what it was," said Vicki Davis.
It's a mutation of a gene on the x chromosome, that leads to a lack of protein production, critical for development. It's one of the most common causes of mental retardation and autism.
"Thirty percent of individuals with Fragile X Syndrome have full autism. Another thirty percent have autism spectrum disorder," explained Dr. Randi Hagerman. Dr. Hagerman is Medical Director of the MIND Institute and Professor of Pediatrics, at University of California Davis Medical Center.
Dr. Hagerman met holly when the girl was just months old. Her Fragile X Syndrome was subtle. Still there were issues.
"She was extremely delayed," said Dr. Hagerman
As part of a clinical trial, Holly started taking a serotonin medication. Then minocycline, a common antibiotic normally used to treat acne, was added to her regimen.
"Her developmental testing just improved remarkably," said Dr. Hagerman.
Holly didn't start talking until she was two and a half. Vicki Davis says additional minocycline treatments around that time helped her catch up, even excel. At just four, Holly started reading.
"The medication really created some of those pathways that taught her how to learn," said Davis.
The drugs that treated Holly have some side effects. They include gastro-intestinal issues, and in rare cases, severe headaches.
Dr. Hagerman hopes the treatments that helped Holly could do the same for autistic kids. That could mean a lot more children living happily ever after.
Dr. Hagerman Said the treatment can be used in older kids with Fragile X Syndrome. But the results might not be as dramatic. The researchers are currently testing other drugs to improve symptoms for 5 to 25 year olds.