CHICAGO, March 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Research Down Syndrome (RDS) has launched an international outreach program to focus awareness and support for the rapidly advancing area of biomedical research leading to safe and effective approved medical therapies to treat cognitive impairment in individuals of all ages with Down syndrome -- improving memory, learning and communication.
Until the past decade, research to understand and treat the cognitive impairments associated with Down syndrome had been largely unexplored, according to Robert C. Schoen, Ph.D., President of RDS. "In 2000, researchers working on the Human Genome Project fully sequenced human chromosome 21, spurring a renewed interest in exploring the causes of the intellectual impairments of Down syndrome. In the last five years, applying modern scientific tools and techniques, researchers have made significant progress toward understanding and treating the cognitive issues associated with Down syndrome, successfully correlating cognitive impairment with specific genes, in specific cells, during specific stages of development," said Schoen. These studies now provide the promise of biomedical therapies for improving memory and learning in individuals with Down syndrome.
This research also offers hope for an increased understanding of the neurobiological basis of Alzheimer's disease. All persons with Down syndrome exhibit cognitive impairment, usually in the mild to moderate range, and, by age 40, virtually all exhibit the brain pathology of Alzheimer's, with at least half eventually developing Alzheimer's disease, according to Schoen. "Scientists continue to find associations between Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease which opens promising new paths of investigation".
A leading researcher in the genetics and neurobiology of cognitive dysfunction in Down syndrome, Roger Reeves Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins University, notes that plateaus in medical research can, at some point, give way to rapid advances. He further explains that "Down syndrome cognitive research is at this stage now, and I am extremely encouraged by the ongoing advances on several fronts in research institutions across the world."
In recent decades, improved health care, expanded education and community opportunities, and the support of families and advocacy groups have improved the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome. As a result, Schoen notes that "over the past 30 years, the life expectancy of those with Down syndrome has more than doubled -- underscoring the importance of development of treatments that will assist this population to achieve and maintain independent living. Along with other organizations supporting Down syndrome cognitive research, such as Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation (DSRTF), we believe that individuals with Down syndrome should have access to effective drug therapies in a manner consistent with many medical conditions."
The RDS outreach program goal is to broaden awareness of Down syndrome cognitive research on a larger scale beyond the Down syndrome community -- communicating new research and scientific breakthroughs, and encouraging people to spread the news and support this research. http://www.researchds.org; http://www.youtube.com/ResearchDownSyndrome.
Down syndrome is the result of an extra copy of the genetic material present on chromosome 21. It is the most frequently occurring chromosomal abnormality, with an incidence of approximately 1 of every 700 live births. Currently there are an estimated three million persons with Down syndrome worldwide, including approximately 400,000 in the United States. The extra chromosomal material impacts the body's and brain's normal development and manifests differently in each individual, including physical traits such as short stature and low muscle tone, and health conditions such as congenital heard defects and hearing deficits.
In addition to Johns Hopkins University, RDS supports cognitive research at other leading research institutions that are studying the basis of the intellectual impairments associated with Down syndrome, including Stanford University, The University of Arizona, University of California, San Diego, and University of Colorado.
About Research Down Syndrome
Research Down Syndrome (RDS) is a non-profit foundation which funds research at leading institutions directed towards identifying safe and effective biomedical therapies to treat the intellectual difficulties associated with Down syndrome. RDS' mission is to educate and inspire society to fund and support Down syndrome cognitive research to enhance and expand life opportunities, helping people with Down syndrome lead more independent lives. Research Down Syndrome is a legal corporate entity, and is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization designated by the Internal Revenue Code. For more information, go to www.researchds.org.
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Robert Schoen, Ph.D.
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