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In utero treatment for Down’s syndrome?

Posted in Scientific research, Screening, Therapeutic treatments by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on November 26, 2008

New Scientist is among a number of news sources reporting that it may one day be possible to treat the symptoms of Down’s syndrome before a child in born via a protein injection.

The report indicates that injecting proteins could make up for malfunctions in glial cells and protect neurons that would otherwise be impacted by Down’s syndrome. According to the report:

“Catherine Spong and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, injected NAP and SAL into mice pregnant with trisomic pups in the middle of their pregnancy. When the pups were born, they reached developmental milestones such as grasping a rod, righting themselves and responding to tactile stimulation at the same time as normal mice.”

There are no guarantees that the treatment would have the same effect on humans, of course, but it does raise an interesting scenario where screening tests can also be used to enable treatment, rather than termination.

See also NHS Behind the Headlines’ take on this story: “It is unclear whether the improvements seen in mice would be seen in humans, and whether such improvements would significantly alter the impact of Down’s syndrome on the individual.”