14 September 2013, 17:20

Can science unplug the extra Down syndrome chromosome?




By Andrew Hiller

WASHINGTON (VOR)— With some genetic diseases, including Down syndrome, the cause seems to be an extra chromosome that interferes with normal development.

For as long as this cause has been suspected, scientists have dreamt of turning that extra chromosome off. We're about to tread once again along the road leading from science fiction to reality.

One of the great pleasures of doing the Prism is discovering that I am wrong about a supposition. Last week, I was speaking to Roger Reeves out of Johns Hopkins about a method he has developed which seems to have reversed Down syndrome in mice. Well, in that discussion, he explained that it would be very hard to just turn off the extra chromosome. And then he said, "Well, up to six months ago I would have agreed with you, but now... well you should talk to Dr. Jeanne Lawrence."

Jeanne Lawrence is interim Chair Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology & Pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts. I asked her to talk about... well, how I was wrong.

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