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Down Syndrome Brains Could Unlock Alzheimer's Secrets

Update Date: Sep 19, 2014 06:17 PM EDT

Down syndrome patients could help scientists find a way to cure Alzheimer's disease. Researchers said that latest findings could explain why adults living with Down syndrome are more likely to develop the neurodegenerative disease.

The study, which looked at the role of the brain protein amyloid-β in adults living with Down syndrome, could also help adults without the genetic syndrome.

"Our hope is to better understand the role of this protein in memory and cognitive function," lead study author Sigan Hartley, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a news release. "With this information we hope to better understand the earliest stages in the development of this disease and gain information to guide prevention and treatment efforts."

"There are many unanswered questions about at what point amyloid-β, together with other brain changes, begins to take a toll on memory and cognition and why certain individuals may be more resistant than others," added Hartley.

The latest study involved 63 Down syndrome patients between the ages of 30 and 53. All participants were healthy adults who did not show clinical signs of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

The findings showed that many adults with Down syndrome had high levels of amyloid-β protein but did not suffer the expected negative consequences of the elevated protein.

Researchers explained that participants with higher levels of amyloid-β showed no difference in memory or cognitive function when compared to those without elevated levels of amyloid-β.

The findings are published in the journal Brain

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