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Researchers modify genetic cause of Down syndrome

A developmental disability can present challenges in school. Fortunately, specialized instruction can greatly assist some students in their academic achievement. Such services are often provided by the student’s school district, to satisfy its obligation of providing learning disabled students with a comparable public education.

Such programs often have a vocational component, in the hopes that developmentally disabled students will graduate with a skill set that qualifies them for work options. Indeed, a learning disability should not be viewed as an absolute limitation on certain future vocations, or as a prediction that an individual will require Social Security disability assistance.

Admittedly, however, certain developmental disabilities may present a greater level of impairment. For that reason, researchers continue to explore the possible genetic causes behind congenital disorders -- those conditions with a biological cause. In the case of Down syndrome, researchers may not only have identified the chromosome responsible for the condition, but also a way to neutralize it -- at least in a lab dish. 

There are 46 chromosomes in each human cell. A person born with Down syndrome has an extra chromosome, which researchers have identified as a duplicate of chromosome 21. However, the catch is that a person’s genetic map is formed at conception. In other words, the condition of Down syndrome also probably occurs at conception.

Even if the research doesn’t lead to a cure of Down syndrome, it may have treatment applications for many of the accompanying health issues affecting individuals with Down syndrome. The syndrome puts individuals more at risk for several other disabling conditions, including thyroid conditions, congenital heart defects, childhood leukemia, and respiratory and hearing issues.

Source: desertnews.com, “Scientists find it is possible to 'silence' chromosome that causes Down syndrome,” Chelynne Renouard, Aug. 12, 2013

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