USA Today spoke with several leading researchers, specialist medical professionals and families for their survey of how biological differences discovered in people with Down syndrome are shedding light on a number of health problems that occur amongst all people. The report includes some delightful photos of a 59 year old woman with Down syndrome.
As they live longer, adults with Down syndrome — who have an extra copy of chromosome 21 — are teaching scientists about the genetic roots of aging, says Ira Lott, head of pediatric neurology at the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine.
Scientists today are searching this chromosome, which contains only about 200 of the body's roughly 20,000 genes, to learn why people with Down syndrome suffer disproportionately from some health problems, such as Alzheimer's disease, but are spared many others, such as heart attacks, strokes and certain types of cancer.
By studying adults with Down syndrome, researchers hope to find new ways to combat diseases of aging in the larger population as well, Lott says.
"It's an interesting detective story," says Lott, head of the science advisory board of the National Down Syndrome Society. "People with Down syndrome are unique when it comes to many aspects of aging."
Reeves says he's grateful to the Down syndrome community for teaching scientists so much.
"If it weren't for people with Down syndrome having fewer tumors," Reeves says, "we never would have thought to look for anything like this."
To read the entire article and to see the photos, click here.