Discovery by A*Star scientists may help those with Down syndrome

SINGAPORE - Singapore scientists have identified the precise role of a protein in the pathway leading to memory and learning impairment.

The study, conducted by scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), expands upon the current understanding of the brain's memory function and could be used to explain defects in the cognitive development of those with Down's syndrome.

The newly established knowledge could potentially facilitate exploration of strategies to improve memory and learning abilities in Down's syndrome, the researchers said.

Down's syndrome is a genetic condition characterized by the presence of an additional copy of chromosome 21.  

About one in eight hundred new-borns is diagnosed with Down's syndrome. It is a condition that leads to impairments in both cognitive ability and physical growth that range from mild to moderate developmental disabilities.

Yet, there is still no treatment for it.

Now, knowing the role of the protein in memory impairment, future research on Down's syndrome could focus on developing strategies which can effectively re-introduce the protein into the brain to restore memory and learning abilities.

Executive Director of IMCB Prof Wanjin Hong said: "The knowledge established from the findings could potentially translate into treatments for Down's syndrome or even become applicable to other similar human conditions."