Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.


Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Rett syndrome

Other Names for this Disease
  • Autism, dementia, ataxia, and loss of purposeful hand use
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

My friend's 3-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. A boy sibling was born last week, and he does not have Rett syndrome. Where can we find more information? How do you become part of a clinical trial?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Rett syndrome?

Rett syndrome is a progressive, neuro-developmental condition that primarily affects girls. Affected girls appear to have normal psychomotor development during the first 6 to 18 months of life, followed by a developmental "plateau," and then rapid regression in language and motor skills. Additional signs and symptoms may include repetitive, stereotypic hand movements; fits of screaming and inconsolable crying; autistic features; panic-like attacks; teeth grinding (bruxism); episodic apnea and/or hyperpnea; gait ataxia and apraxia; tremors; seizures; and slowed head growth. Some people have an atypical form of Rett syndrome that may be more mild or more severe. Classic Rett syndrome is most commonly caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene and is usually inherited in an X-linked dominant manner. The vast majority of cases are not inherited from a parent, but are due to a new mutation in the affected person. Treatment mainly focuses on the specific signs and symptoms of the condition.[1]
Last updated: 8/4/2014

What causes Rett syndrome?

Rett syndrome is typically caused by changes (mutations) in the MECP2 gene. This gene provides instructions for making a protein (MeCP2) needed for the development of the nervous system and normal brain function. Mutations in the MECP2 gene that cause Rett syndrome can change the MeCP2 protein or result in the production of too little protein, which appears to disrupt the normal function of neurons and other cells in the brain.

Several conditions caused by changes in other genes (such as FOXG1 syndrome) have overlapping signs and/or symptoms of Rett syndrome. These conditions were once thought to be variant forms of Rett syndrome, but are now usually considered to be separate disorders.[2]
Last updated: 8/6/2014

Is Rett syndrome inherited?

Although Rett syndrome is a genetic disorder, less than 1 percent of recorded cases are inherited or passed from one generation to the next. Most cases are sporadic, which means the mutation occurs randomly, and are not inherited. A few families have been described with more than one affected family member. These cases helped researchers determine that Rett syndrome has an X-linked dominant pattern of inheritance. A condition is considered X-linked if the mutated gene that causes the disorder is located on the X chromosome, one of the two sex chromosomes. The inheritance is dominant if one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the condition.[3]
Last updated: 4/25/2016

How can I learn about research involving Rett syndrome?

The Angelman, Rett, and Prader-Willi Syndrome Consortium (ARPWSC) is an integrated group of academic medical centers, patient support organizations, and clinical research resources dedicated to conducting clinical research in genetic and neurodevelopmental disorders, with the goal of improving the care of patients with Angelman Syndrome, Prader-Willi Syndrome, and Rett Syndrome. Contact the ARPWSC to learn more about joining the Rett syndrome registry and participating in research studies.

Angelman, Rett & Prader-Willi Syndromes Consortium Registry
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza Rm. T619
Houston TX 77030
Phone: 713-798-4795
Fax: 713-798-7773
Web site:

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, through the National Library of Medicine, developed to provide patients, family members, and members of the public with current information on clinical research studies. Currently, 5 clinical trials are identified as enrolling individuals with Rett syndrome. To find these trials, click on the link above and use "Rett syndrome" as your search term. After you click on a study, review its "eligibility" criteria to determine its appropriateness. Use the study’s contact information to learn more. Check this site often for regular updates.

You can also contact the Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison (PRPL) Office at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We recommend calling the toll-free number listed below to speak with a specialist, who can help you determine if there are any other relevant clinical trials.

Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office
NIH Clinical Center
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2655
Toll-free: 800-411-1222
Fax: 301-480-9793
Web site:

If someone you know is interested in enrolling in a clinical trial, you can find helpful general information on clinical trials at the following Web page.

A tutorial about clinical trials that can also help answer your questions can be found at the following link from the National Library of Medicine:

Resources on many charitable or special-fare flights to research and treatment sites and low-cost hospitality accommodations for outpatients and family members, as well as ambulance services, are listed on the Web site of the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Last updated: 4/21/2016

Other Names for this Disease
  • Autism, dementia, ataxia, and loss of purposeful hand use
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.