Down's seen in stem cells5th September 2008
A team of scientists has identified the earliest developmental changes that lead to Down's syndrome.
The changes to the embryonic stem cells are caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21, according to the research led by experts from Barts and the Royal London.
The extra chromosome is believed to set off a chain of genetic changes in the developing embryo.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Human Genetics and welcomed by the Down's Syndrome Association.
It is hoped that in time, the work may lead to molecule-based therapies that could alleviate the effects of Down's syndrome.
Dean Nizetic, professor of cellular and molecular biology at Barts and the London, said: "We hope that further research might lead to clues for the design of new therapeutic approaches tackling developmental delay, mental retardation, ageing and regeneration of brain cells, and Alzheimer's disease."
The team also included researchers and scientists from the US, Australia, Spain and Switzerland.
Carol Boys, chief executive for the Down's Syndrome Association, said any research leading to greater understanding of some of the complex medical conditions commonly associated with Down's syndrome was a positive step forward.
She said: "The development of therapeutic treatments for these sometimes complicated health problems that can be associated with the condition will hopefully lead to an improvement in the overall health of people of with Down's syndrome."
About 60,000 people in the UK have Down's syndrome and one in every 1,000 babies born in this country have the condition.
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