Researchers at Johns Hopkins restored the normal growth of specific nerve cells in the cerebellum of mouse models of Down syndrome (DS) that were stunted by this genetic condition. The cerebellum is the rear, lower part of the brain that controls signals from the muscles to coordinate balance and motor learning.
The finding is important, investigators say, because the cells rescued by this treatment represent potential targets for future therapy in human babies with DS. And it suggests that similar success for other DS-related disruptions of brain growth, such as occurs in the hippocampus, could lead to additional treatments - perhaps prenatally - that restore memory and the ability to orient oneself in space.
DS is caused by an extra chromosome 21, a condition called trisomy - a third copy of a chromosome in addition to the normal two copies. Children with DS have a variety of abnormalities, such as slowed growth, abnormal facial features and mental retardation. The brain is always small and has a greatly reduced number of neurons.
Gary Stephenson | EurekAlert!
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