Monday, 5 November 2012

Two large research studies into Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome announced

UK consortium awarded £2.5m for research into Down syndrome, learning disabilities and dementia
Dr André Strydom (UCL Mental Health Sciences Unit) and Professors Elizabeth Fisher and John Hardy (both UCL Institute of Neurology) have been successful in their application to the Wellcome Trust for a Strategic Award to understand the processes involved in the Alzheimer’s Disease that often occurs as people with Down Syndrome age.

The London Down Syndrome (LonDownS) Consortium's successful bid, worth £2.5 million, also incorporates researchers from other institutes, including Professor Dean Nizetic (Queen Mary, University of London) and Dr Victor Tybulewicz (MRC National Institute for Medical Research), along with Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith (Birkbeck College Centre for Brain & Cognitive Development, University of London).

Principal Applicant, Dr André Strydom, said: “This project brings together researchers from different disciplines to tackle the cognitive problems associated with Down Syndrome. We want to understand why people with Down Syndrome are much more likely than the general population to develop Alzheimer’s disease (dementia), and we will also look for markers that can identify those who go on to develop dementia before they present with problems. We are hoping to identify risk factors for dementia during infancy, which will help us to target preventative treatments. We will also learn much more about the learning difficulties of Down Syndrome, which may lead to new treatments. It is the most advanced research project on cognition in Down Syndrome that we know of and the findings will also have implications for the early identification and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in the general population.

The project involves cutting-edge inter-disciplinary research by leading geneticists, psychiatrists and neuroscientists who will be working closely with the Down’s Syndrome Association and the Down’s Syndrome All Party Parliamentary Interest Group.The project also includes North American and European collaborators to ensure the research is standardised for international programmes.

Professor Fisher said: ‘It is very exciting to be funded to bring together our work on Down syndrome mouse models and directly align them with information from human studies."

Dr Victor Tybulewicz said: “This Award will enable us to translate our work on Down Syndrome from animal models to humans, and will provide new insights into the pathological changes underlying this complex human syndrome."
UCL News 17 October 2012

Three year US study of Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome to be funded by Johnson and Johnson
'In a new lead on Alzheimer's research, Johnson & Johnson is bankrolling a three-year pilot study of people with Down syndrome to identify the early changes that herald dementia, which afflicts up to 75 percent of adults with the condition.

The aim is to generate support for a much bigger, public-private partnership funded by drugmakers, advocates and government agencies that will study at least 1,000 people with Down syndrome, tracking them from an early age and eventually testing treatments to keep dementia from developing.
... Experts in Down syndrome and Alzheimer's who gathered in Chicago for a workshop on the idea at the Alzheimer's Association offices (in September) say it may offer the best scientific model yet for testing drugs to prevent the degenerative brain disease.

... The dementia that develops in people with Down syndrome may bear a stronger resemblance to the disease in the broader population because it differs from other forms of early-onset Alzheimer's, researchers say. ... People with Down syndrome appear to develop dementia because of their extra copy of an otherwise normal APP gene.

"There is a possibility that the Down syndrome population mimics (late-onset) Alzheimer's disease a little more closely," said Manji, co-author of a commentary this month in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery that laid out plans for the study.

... (The Down Syndrome Center for Research and Treatment at the University of California, San Diego) will run the 12-patient pilot study, which aims to lay the foundation for the larger project, dubbed the Down Syndrome Biomarker Initiative.

What is not yet known is how many parents of people with Down syndrome would be willing to sign up their adult children for such trials.'

Extracted from Down syndrome may hold key to new Alzheimer's treatments, by Julie Steenhuysen Reuters (US edition),  published online 25th September 2012 

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