New Therapy Significantly Improves Cognitive Functions in Patients, Study Finds

This study demonstrates that the injection of a hormone in patients carrying this genetic anomaly generates a real benefit at the end of the treatment.

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A new therapy improves cognitive functions in patients with trisomy 21, according to a study published Thursday, September 1 in the journal Scienceconducted by researchers from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) within the “Lille neuroscience and cognition” laboratory and the Lausanne University Hospital.

This study demonstrates that the injection of a hormone in patients with trisomy 21 improves their cognitive functions by 20 to 30%. The tests carried out on seven patients suffering from this genetic anomaly showed a real benefit at the end of the treatment: a better understanding of the instructions, more landmarks in space, improved attention and memory. A mother testified that her son with Down syndrome no longer got lost on the way to work.

For six months, these men aged 20 to 50 received an injection of hormone every two hours through a pump installed on their arm (like those used by diabetics). This hormone, GnRH, is naturally secreted by the body except in carriers of trisomy 21.

The researchers had initially proven using mice that this dysfunction impaired their cognitive faculties and that by restoring the hormone, these functions were improved by 20 to 30%. “In trisomy 21, GnRH therapy is promising, especially since it is an existing treatment and without significant side effects”, underlines Nelly Pitteloud, researcher. Scientists must confirm these results by conducting a larger study this fall on around 60 male and female volunteers.

Trisomy 21 affects approximately one in 800 births. It results in particular in a decline in cognitive abilities. As they age, 77% of people with trisomy 21 experience symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease.

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