Alzheimer’s disease(AD) is far more common in persons with Down syndrome than the general population. Most, if not all, persons with Down syndrome begin to exhibit the brain pathology associated with AD by the age of forty. The onset of AD occurs earlier in persons with Down syndrome, and its prevalence reaches up to 75% in individuals above the age of 60. While the reasons behind the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in Down syndrome are not completely known, studies have suggested one association may be that the extra copy of chromosome 21 leads to increased production of beta amyloid protein, which is known to contribute to neuronal degeneration in AD. Down syndrome cognitive research and Alzheimer’s disease investigations are, therefore likely to yield information which will advance knowledge about both conditions.
Here is a New York Times article that describes an initiative in Alzheimer’s disease research that has led to unprecedented cooperation between government agencies, medical researchers, not for profit organizations and the drug and medical instrument industry. These groups agreed that a more productive approach to advancing AD research would be to collaborate in their efforts such that all research findings be exchanged promptly and made public immediately. No one would own the data or submit patent applications. This cooperative effort, the article reports, has led to a more rapid identification of biological markers that show the progression of AD in the human brain, and should assist efforts to identify potential drugs that may stop or slow the disease.
Research Down Syndrome employs an innovative, targeted, collaborative research model and applauds the AD initiative described in this article.