Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A gene for one aspect of Down's syndrome

Down's syndrome is caused by having an extra chromosome 21. Presumably, having the extra copy increases the production of some protein or proteins, which produce the observable effects. A researcher has found that superexpression of a particular gene that affects transmission between neurons may be the reason for the visual-spatial memory problems of people with Down's syndrome.

It is believed that the root of this problem is in the central part of the brain; more concretely, in the transmission between the hippocampus and a specific part of the brain. It would seem that cholinergic neurons, which should guarantee this transmission, undergo alterations in those persons with Down's syndrome, besides deteriorating with age. 
Since chromosome 21 has lots of genes on it to be overexpressed, lots of genes are likely to be related to Down's syndrome, but it's cool each time they find something, and this seems to be a big one.

Every time I hear about researchers finding a relation between some gene and some dysfunction, I imagine gene therapy for it in 10 or 20 years. We're learning so much about so many things.

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