Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health have identified a compound that dramatically bolsters learning and memory when given to mice with a Down syndrome-like condition on the day of birth, according to a report Science Daily and Fox News.
In a study published in the Sept. 4 issue of Science Translational Medicine, scientists reveal how they injected a small molecule known as a “sonic hedgehog pathway agonist” into the brains of genetically engineered mice on the day of their birth.
According to the study, the treatment enabled the rodents’ cerebellums to grow to a “normal size,” allowing them to perform just as well as unmodified mice in behavioral tests.
“We’ve been working for some time to characterize the basis for how people with trisomy 21 diverge in development from people without trisomy 21,” Roger Reeves, a professor in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told FoxNews.com. “One of the early things we see is that people with Down syndrome have very small cerebellums, which does a lot more things than we used to think it did.”
Down syndrome is a condition that occurs when people receive three – rather than the typical two – copies of chromosome 21. Because of this “trisomy,” Down syndrome patients have extra copies of the more than 300 genes contained in that chromosome. This leads to a range of symptoms, including mild to moderate intellectual disability, distinct facial features, heart defects and other health problems.