Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Study launched to investigate link between Down’s syndrome and dementia

A £1 million brain-imaging study has been launched to investigate why people with Down’s syndrome are at much great risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than the general population. Down’s syndrome is the only known disorder in which one can expect early-onset dementia to develop, and a team from the University of Cambridge is investigating why. “Almost 100% of people with [Down’s syndrome] develop pathological signs of Alzheimer’s, and clinical symptoms are seen in [Down’s syndrome] around 40 years earlier than in the general population,” said Professor Tony Holland, from the Cambridge Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Group, who is leading the study.

The research team is looking for people with Down’s syndrome to volunteer to take part in the study. The team has produced a short film – www.youtube.com/user/downsproject – to explain the testing process. “People with [Down’s syndrome] are living longer lives, and better lives, but this can be a poisoned chalice, as with this comes a real risk of Alzheimer’s, ” said Professor Holland. “Now we need volunteers to come forward to help us explore what is happening to the brain.”

This 4-year study aims to determine the role of beta amyloid, a key factor in causing Alzheimer’s. People with Down’s syndrome may be more vulnerable to this type of dementia as they have more amyloid in their brains – a key amyloid gene is located on chromosome 21, which is triplicated in people with Down’s syndrome. Investigating amyloid in this way will also help understand Alzheimer’s development in the general population.

If you have Down’s syndrome or know someone with Down’s syndrome over the age of 30, who might be interested to hear more about this study, please contact either Tiina ([email protected]) or Liam ([email protected])

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