ElderLaw News — The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Down's Syndrome and the Link to Alzheimer's

The latest medical research is showing a link between the condition known as Down's Syndrome and the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Already scientists know there is a high incidence of Alzheimer's disease in people with Down's Syndrome. By age 40, 40 percent of individuals with Down's Syndrome develop Alzheimer's. By age 50, the percentage increases to 50 percent. Why is this so? Scientists are not sure, but they have noticed that all people with Down's Syndrome develop the plaques that cause Alzheimer's, and they begin to do so at an early age. However, what intrigues them is why 50 percent of the Down's Syndrome population DON’T develop the disease., even though they possess some of those troublesome plaques. Plaque is a sticky protein called amyloid-beta that covers nerve cells and inhibits the brain’s functioning.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that both Down's Syndrome and Alzheimer's have a related genetic component. People with Down's Syndrome have an extra 21st chromosome, and plaques develop from a precursor protein for amyloid-beta which is configured on the 21st chromosome, according to Dr. Cindy Lemere, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. With this knowledge, some scientists like Dr. Brian Skotko, co-director of the Down's Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, have begun experimental studies investigating the treatment of individuals with Down's Syndrome with certain drug therapies. Dr. Skotko is currently using the drug, scyllo-inositol developed by the Elan Corporation, to see if plaque formation can be blocked while other cells in the body are fortified. A possible side effect of the treatment may be enhancement of intellectual functioning. If plaque formation can be stopped or slowed, the theory is that individuals with Down's Syndrome may be able to function at higher levels. Those results should be available in the near future. In the meantime, he has lots of willing subjects who want to participate in his research.

Others are conflicted about this new possibility. One such person is Andy Majewski, whose son, Ben, has Down's Syndrome and works at the Down's Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General. The family considers Ben perfect, "so we don't look for any changes in him. But the prospect of Alzheimer’s makes you think a bit more about, if there's a potential cure, and this can unlock the code to Alzheimer's, we have to think about it a little more carefully." Of course, they will involve Ben in the decision. The family is still considering what to do. It's at least nice that now there may be options.

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/how-down-syndrome-may-help-unravel-alzheimers-puzzle…9/6/2013

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