Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Possible Cure for Down's Syndrome?

Our blogger, Sue Trinidad, had posted about changes in testing for Down's syndrome before, but another interesting medical news item appeared today about a potential way to treat the cognitive deficits caused by Down's Syndrome: At the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Meeting, investigators reported tha the learning deficits of mice with trisomy 21 appear to have been prevented with a peptide combination. Although the data and conclusions of the study should be considered to be preliminary as they have not yet been reviewed and published in a peer-reviewed publication, the results have sparked anticipation about the use of peptides in patients with Down's. And which raises an interesting ethical question to ponder: assuming that the therapies become safe and readily accessible, could there ever be a justification for a parent withholding such therapy?

Full article accessible here.


Jessica said...


As the mother of a 7 year-old daughter with Trisomy 21, my initial response is that Down syndrome is not a disease or life-threatening condition to be cured, Her extra chromosome is simply part of her genetic make-up. Has it caused her to struggle developmentally? Yes. Would I like to see her abilities improved cognitively from a magic pill? Maybe. First of all, I am very hesitant to believe drug-makers or the FDA when drugs are garnered "safe". Do I think I am morally bankrupt if I "withhold" this therapeutic drug? Absolutely not. So many additional questions come to mind. If she becomes cognitively "typical" and her features and physical limitations remain the same, will she be made fun of more? Will she be more aware of her differences? Will she lose her ability to see the world through rose-colored glasses? Should I allow her to have plastic surgery so that her features match her new-found cognitive ability? I know parents who are desperate to change their child's diagnosis (down syndrome, Autism,etc). Is this for the parent...or the child? God created my daughter and I trust that she was created in His image. If He has something else in mind for her, maybe it will reveal itself in the advances of mankind but will it really be in the form of a pill? The one thing I do know is that Down syndrome occurs at the chromosomal level-nothing will change that. Perhaps her learning ability may be improved one day by modern medicine but until then I think I will just enjoy her the way she is-chromosomally enhanced.

Linda MacDonald Glenn said...

Those are all good questions, Jessica -- especially the question about for whom are we doing this? As parents we all want our children to be happy, but does improving their cognitive ability necessarily make them happier? It reminds of the book I read a long time ago -- Flowers for Algernon.

Helen said...

Hi Jessica,

As a woman with AS, I have thought a lot on the idea of a cure for AS.

Were one were offered me, I would probably not take it, because AS gives me more gifts than deficits.

I think I would rather they produce a tablet which makes more people tolerant of genetic diversity and neurodiversity!