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Could Alzheimer’s drug help those with Down’s syndrome?

Posted in Learning disability, Scientific research, Therapeutic treatments by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on October 22, 2008

According to a report in the Belleville News Democrat, a new study is underway to test whether drugs used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s could also improve the cognitive abilities of people with Down’s syndrome.

According to the report initial trials of drugs like Aricept and Exelon “appear to increase skill levels in children with Down syndrome in just a few months”. Details of the US-wide study are available here.

Organisers are looking for 2,000 participants at 200 sites across the US. Potential participants should be between 6 and 17 years of age, diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, and able to see, hear, communicate and walk.

The news story indicates that the drugs were originally given to patients with Down’s syndrome in an attempt to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s but were found to improve communication skills. It quotes Dr. John Boeren, who is behind the trials, in his explanation of the potential impact of even a small improvement:

“What they found is that over a relatively short period of time with careful testing, they saw an improvement in children’s communication skills, they saw some measurable improvement in understanding and they saw an improvement in activities of daily life,” Boeren said.

“It wasn’t tremendous. It’s not life-altering — yet, in a way it is. If you have a child that is maybe functioning on a 5-year-old level and you get him up to a level of a 7-year-old, that’s a big difference as far as what he can do for himself, how well he can communicate with the family and so on.”

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