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Upcoming study delves on link between Down’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease

A compelling new report from the Orange County Register profiled one such example of a person whose Down syndrome may have predicated future incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Ruth Russi, who was born in 1959 with Down syndrome, was not expected to live past her fifth birthday. While manifesting the classical symptoms of the disease, she was nonetheless expected to outlive her parents by the time she turned 50 years old. Her behavior, however, would soon become more feeble, and it was determined that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Russi passed away in the fall of 2015, just a week shy of her 56th birthday, not having outlived her parents after all.

alzheimers

Considering this tragic case and others, the University of California-Irvine received a $4.7 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, and will launch an extensive, five-year study this summer, hoping to pinpoint which Down syndrome sufferers are most susceptible to dementia. Aside from Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome sufferers are said to be susceptible to other diseases, but it’s the link to Alzheimer’s that researchers are most concerned about.

“I think the urgency in part reflects the urgency of Alzheimer’s research,” study lead Dr. Ira Lott told the OC Register in its report. “Alzheimer’s is a tremendous national problem. Many people with Down syndrome live productive and happy lives. To have that cut off prematurely by Alzheimer’s disease is a tragedy that we’re trying to prevent.”

According to Lott, it’s interesting how some people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, while others do not.. He believes that his team’s research, once completed, will help the medical space further understand both conditions; specifically, he is hoping to discover the genetic features that may predict dementia occurrence, and to facilitate the introduction of early therapies.

For the purpose of the study, Lott is recruiting 100 people aged 40 and above, all with Down syndrome. The subjects will go through a battery of tests, including cognitive and memory tests, blood tests, brain scans, and spinal fluid tests. According to the OC Register, the volunteers include 45-year-old Gerard Fobes, who played a high school student in the video of Garth Brooks’ 1993 song “Standing Outside the Fire.”

“Because of the biology of Down syndrome, there’s a special window here for understanding the process of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lott.

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