Down Syndrome is a condition that arises from an extra copy of chromosome 21 and the resultant over-expression of each of the hundreds of genes carried by the chromosome. It affects about 1 in 691 people and varies in severity; but it usually leads to developmental delays, low muscle tone, small stature and an upward slant to the eyes.
Until recently, Down Syndrome was thought to be untreatable – although some of the symptoms could be alleviated, there was no real treatment. Now, however, according to an article written in the March/April edition of Scientific American Mind and based on research at Johns Hopkins University and other places, there is hope of a treatment.
There are already clinical trials under way for two possible treatments; in addition, Roger Reeves of Johns Hopkins has identified a drug that may correct the problems with learning and memory that are a central part of Down Syndrome.
The new drug, which has been successfully tested on mice that have Down syndrome, stimulates neurological pathways that are involved with the growth of the cerebellum. Even 3 months after being treated, the mice showed improved performance in running through a maze.
Of course, mice aren’t humans, and there may be side effects or other problems. Nevertheless, these results are very hopeful.
Sources: March/April 2014 Scientific American Mind
National Down Syndrome Society