The Down's Syndrome.
Although research has only been carried out on mice, the DSA says the finding is of 'great interest' after scientists used a compound to reverse learning disabilities. However, it only works when given to affected mice on the day of their birth.
U.S. researchers, led by Professor Roger Reeves at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, identified the compound that dramatically boosts the learning ability and memory of mice with a Down's syndrome-like condition.
They believe that a single dose encourages the cerebellum of the rodents' brains to grow to a normal size - most people with Down's syndrome have a cerebellum that is only 60 per cent of the normal size.
After being injected with the compound, the rodents were able to function as well as mice without learning disabilities in behavioural tests.
The scientists have warned that use of the compound, a small molecule known as a sonic hedgehog pathway agonist, has not been proved safe for use in people with Down's syndrome, but say their experiments hold promise for developing drugs like it.
Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, said: "Professor Reeves and his team are part of the respected worldwide Down's syndrome research community.
"This successful piece of clinical research will be of great interest to them all.
"As Professor Reeves explains, this is not going to translate into clinical applications for people currently living with the condition but is another step along the path of understanding the complexity of an extra chromosome 21 in every single cell."
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