While still in the initial stage, the experiments, which were conducted on fruit fly models, suggest a novel approach to studying intellectual disorders.
Although scientists are learning more about how to manage life with the disorder, which arises from an extra copy of chromosome 21, a way to stop it at the source still remains elusive.
According to MSN, the research hinges on the expression of a protein known as DSCAM, the Down syndrome cell-adhesion molecule, which during development, the brain relies on for an overproduction to join with other neurons.
However, at some point DSCAM has to stop adding length to the neurons’ arms, otherwise they’ll make faulty connections with neighboring cells.
It’s thought disorders of the brain, including Down syndrome and Fragile X, arise when DSCAM production fails to quit.
Thus, "the study proposes a potential therapeutic approach for treating brain disorders associated with dysregulated expression of the DSCAM protein,”
This is according to a statement by the senior study author Bing Ye, of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute.
For the study, the team rigged an experiment in genetically modified fruit flies in which the DSCAM overproduction also led to an overproduction of a protein called Abelson tyrosine kinase (Abl).
By checking the relative levels of Abl after giving the flies drugs for leukemia, the team could also measure how long or short the ends of the neurons grew. If they were shorter than average, the drugs were working.
In the end, the suggested dramatic implications for controlling the development of young brains with drugs normally reserved for adult forms of cancer proved to be a potential solution.
It also validated the patterns between human gene expression and that of others species.
Further commenting on the findings, Ye said:
“Although there's an amazing amount of similarity between flies and humans, more study is needed before we'll know if this could be a safe and effective treatment for human patients.”