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.