April 23, 2024

Down syndrome cure could be possible

Stanford research focuses on reasons for cognitive delays

At the moment, 92% of pregnant women who are told that their child has Down syndrome choose a termination. But what if there were a cure? Surprisingly, researchers at Stanford University and the University of California San Diego have suggest that this may be possible.

At birth, children with Down syndrome are not developmentally delayed, but as they age, they fall behind. The scientists found that boosting norepinephrine signaling in the brains of mice which have been genetically engineered to mimic Down syndrome improves their cognition. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that nerve cells use to communicate.

“If you intervene early enough, you will be able to help kids with Down syndrome to collect and modulate information,” said Dr Ahmad Salehi, an Iranian who is the lead author of the study in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “Theoretically, that could lead to an improvement in cognitive functions in these kids.”

This research build on a program at Stanford with a focus on improving cognitive impairment by studying exactly which genes are responsible for cognitive impairment.

Coincidentally, two other Down syndrome stories emerged this week. One claims that if there were a cure, many parents would not take advantage of it. A Canadian survey by the University of British Columbia found that 27% of parents would not choose to cure their children; 32% weren’t sure; and 41% certainly would.

And researchers from Baylor College of Medicine claim that they have developed an even more accurate non-invasive pre-natal test for Down syndrome. It has, they say, an “unparalleled ability to maximize detection and minimize false concerns” about a Down syndrome pregnancy. It will allow women to “complete the spectrum of ‘informed choice'”. ~ Science Daily, Nov 19

Michael Cook
Down syndrome