Alzheimer’s are evident as the most common disease among the elderly people. In a significant study, scientists have discovered a link between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s, saying that understanding the former may help in decoding the latter.
This has been known for decades that people with Down syndrome were at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but some researchers now believe that understanding the connection between the two conditions might help us unravel the Alzheimer’s puzzle and point towards therapies that might slow, or even halt, the dreaded disease.
“It’s a tantalizing and provocative question: Do people with Down syndrome hold the key to the mystery of Alzheimer’s development?” Dr. Brian Skotko, co-director of the Down Syndrome Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said while adding, “And what can we learn from those with Down syndrome that will benefit the rest of the population?”
Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 26 million people worldwide. It is predicted to skyrocket as boomers age — nearly 106 million people are projected to have the disease by 2050.
Researchers say, not only do more people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s, but they also develop it at a much younger age. By age 40, a full 40 percent of people with Down syndrome will develop the disease, and by age 50 that rises to 50 percent.
While not everyone with Down syndrome develops dementia, all develop changes in their brains that are found in Alzheimer’s patients, scientists stressed.
“We’ve learned that prevention and treatment in the earliest stages is probably our best way to battle this disease,” Lemere said.
“And we know that everybody with Down syndrome will eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease – or at least the changes in the brain. So we know that this is now another population where we can perhaps go in and test therapies very early in the disease as a prevention,” she added.