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Monday, 03 March 2014 10:34

IQ-Boosting Drugs Aim to Help Down Syndrome Kids Learn

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Reproduced from bloomberg.com

Aiming deep inside the brain, drugmakers are testing medicines that may improve learning in people with Down syndrome, an advance unimaginable 50 years ago when many children with the genetic condition were considered hopelessly disabled.

About 6,000 U.S. babies are born with Down syndrome each year. Most attend school, aided by programs designed to help them deal with their disabilities. Now Roche Holding AG (ROG) and Balance Therapeutics Inc., taking advantage of a research renaissance in brain science, are testing drugs in human trials that may pave the way toward a new era. The goal: Improve the ability of these children to remember and learn.

 

The treatments aren’t a cure, and don’t address the underlying genetic problem. Instead, they aim to compensate for chemistry imbalances inherent in the condition by boosting the ability of nerve cells in the brain to communicate and form long-lasting connections, crucial for memory formation.

“Ten years ago if you told anyone there were going to be trials of drugs to improve cognitive symptoms of Down syndrome they would have laughed you out of town,” said Roger Reeves, a geneticist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The advances “in the just last five years are truly amazing.”

Down syndrome is among the most common genetic causes of intellectual disability, afflicting 250,000 Americans. It’s caused by having a third copy of chromosome 21. The main known risk factor is maternal age, with most cases occurring randomly in egg-cell maturation or sperm formation.

Read 2468 times Last modified on Thursday, 03 July 2014 06:27

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