Thursday, November 19, 2009

A treatment for Down syndrome?

Wow. A study at Stanford, reported in Science Daily, found that increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in young mice that had been genetically engineered to have something like Down syndrome improved their cognition. Within a few hours of getting the drugs, the mice did as well on their mouse-SATs as normal mice.

Imagine giving a drug to a newborn with Down syndrome that will let the kid grow up with normal cognitive abilities. The drug wears off quickly, so they'd have to keep taking it, unless we find a genetic treatment. They would still have the related physical problems, kidneys and such, but this would be a huge improvement in their lives and their families' lives.

This is your tax dollars at real work. We should remember to point this out next time some idiot senator wants to defund the National Institutes of Health.

This jumped out at me from the Science Daily article and suggests ways for caregivers to work with Downs kids:

"Cognition doesn't fail in every aspect; it's failing in a structure-dependent fashion," (the primary author) said. For instance, people with Down syndrome struggle to use spatial and contextual information to form new memories, a function that depends on the hippocampus part of the brain. As a result, they have trouble with learning to navigate complex environments such as a new neighborhood or a shopping mall. But they're much better at remembering information linked to colors, sounds or other sensory cues because such sensory memories are coordinated by a different brain structure, the amygdala.

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