Lithium and Down Syndrome
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. The genetic disorder is the most common single cause of human birth defect, and occurs when a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46.
The extra chromosome causes problems with the way the body and brain develop. In the brain, Down syndrome results in alterations in the connections between neurons and a reduction in the development of new neurons, called neurogenesis, that usually occurs during learning.
Now, researchers say Lithium may help Down syndrome patients. Published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researcher Laura Gasparini at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genova, Italy reported that the drug, which is commonly used to treat mood disorders, restores neurogenesis, or the development of new neurons, in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning and memory.
Lithium also significantly improved the performance of Down syndrome mice in tasks measuring contextual learning, spatial memory, and object discrimination. These results suggest that lithium-based therapies may help Down syndrome patients, said Gasparini and co-authors.
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation: Nation Institutes of Health, National Down Syndrome Society, December 2012
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