SOURCE: Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation

Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation

November 20, 2009 15:49 ET

New Strategy to Improve Cognition in Down Syndrome Discovered by DSRTF Grant Recipients

PALO ALTO, CA--(Marketwire - November 20, 2009) - The Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation (DSRTF) announces the identification of a new potential therapeutic strategy to address cognitive decline and improve cognition in Down syndrome. The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine on November 18, 2009 by DSRTF-supported researchers, Drs. Ahmad Salehi, William Mobley, and colleagues at Stanford and UCSD Schools of Medicine. The study explored contextual learning, and discovered that specific drug compounds can restore this important aspect of learning and memory in a mouse model, indicating a new potential therapeutic strategy to improve contextual learning for individuals with Down syndrome.

Generally, people do not have trouble finding, for example, a specific store in a shopping mall, especially if they have been there before. They are able to integrate input from their senses (such as sight, sound, smell, etc.) with navigational cues from the environment to remember and find their way. This is called contextual learning. For people with Down syndrome, contextual learning is a particular challenge. In addition it is believed that poor contextual learning and memory is involved in cognitive decline as people with Down syndrome age.

In this new study, the researchers explored the basis of contextual learning in a mouse model of Down syndrome and discovered that:

--  Specific brain cells, or neurons, in one region of the brain are
    damaged and degenerate leading to the disruption of a specific set of
    neural circuits;
--  In contrast, the neurons in another brain region that receive signals
    from the degenerating neurons remain intact and functional;
--  One consequence of this specific neuronal degeneration is impairment
    in contextual learning and memory; and,
--  Specific drug compounds can essentially restore this important aspect
    of learning and memory in the mouse model suggesting a new potential
    therapeutic strategy.

"DSRTF is extremely pleased to have provided critical grant funding to advance this important and exciting research," said Dr. Michael Harpold, Chief Executive Officer of DSRTF. "This new study illustrates DSRTF's commitment to new discovery research and the advance of new discoveries toward possible clinical trials. Such research is essential for the development of effective new therapies to improve cognition and create new opportunities, including the potential for greater independence and achievement, for all individuals with Down syndrome."

About DSRTF: DSRTF has become the leading non-governmental source of funding in the U.S. for research to improve cognition in individuals with Down syndrome. Since its founding in 2004, DSRTF has generated more than $5.6 million to fund and support major new results-driven cognition research.

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