The MRC funded Dementia in Down’s Syndrome study is now coming to an end – thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last couple of years, especially the families, carers and people with Down’s syndrome themselves who volunteered to help us defeat dementia in Down’s syndrome! Over the last months, Tiina and Liam have been working very hard to find out when people with Down’s syndrome show signs of amyloid in the brain and if they do, in which parts of their brains this amyloid is found. They have recently published a new article that describes what they found! It can be very complicated to understand but you can still have a look at it and the pictures we have included on this website: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1552526015026679. It is free for everyone to read!
In this research article, Tiina and Liam report that some people with Down’s syndrome show amyloid in their brains as they get older. Tiina and Liam looked at the brain pictures from the PET scan (for the participants, who had their brain scans in Cambridge – this was the quieter scan that lasted 2 hours and where Gloria helped to do the scans) and found that some people with Down’s syndrome who are older than 39 years have amyloid in their brains. They did not find anyone with Down’s syndrome younger than 39 years old who had amyloid in their brain. Tiina and Liam also found that people with Down’s syndrome older than 49 years have some amyloid in their brain and some people, but not all of them, have problems with their memory.
In this research article, Tiina and Liam also describe which parts of the brain the amyloid is found in and suggest a possible way of how this amyloid might spread through the brain as people get older. They found that in people with Down’s syndrome, amyloid is first seen in an area called the striatum (which is located deep in the centre of the brain). This is very interesting because the same area (the striatum) has been shown to have amyloid first in people who have an abnormality (mutation) in their genes that causes early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Tiina and Liam also found that after the striatum, amyloid is next seen in the front of the brain in an area called the frontal lobe. The frontal lobes are involved in making decisions, regulating our behaviour so that we do not lose our temper all the time and helping us plan ahead and think about the future. It is very interesting that amyloid is seen very early in the frontal lobes in people with Down’s syndrome as researchers believe that people with Down’s syndrome have more problems with their behaviour and personality than with their memory at the very early stages of dementia.
Even though the Dementia in Down’s Syndrome study has finished, Tiina and Liam are still working on understanding how dementia is caused in people with Down’s syndrome and what we can do in the future to stop people with Down’s syndrome from getting dementia – they are busy writing further papers as they complete analysing the results. They are now looking at whether there are any early signs in the brains of people with Down’s syndrome that might predict whether they are going to get memory problems in the future. They are also trying to figure out how amyloid affects the brain and how it leads to people getting memory problems. We will let you know what they find!
Maddie and Sally continue working on their studies, looking at brain activity and the eyes in people with Down’s syndrome. Also, there are two new brain imaging studies of dementia in people with Down’s syndrome starting in the new year, so keep an eye out for a letter in the post or more information on our website! In one of the studies funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK we will be asking some of you if we can see you again to see whether anything has changed. The other study is funded by the USA National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will involve people with DS from the USA and the UK.
Again, our first research paper is now published and available online from:
If you would like us to send you a paper copy of the research article, please let Suzie Tall know either by calling her on 01223 746007 or emailing her on firstname.lastname@example.org – she is very happy to help!
If you have any questions about what Tiina and Liam have found so far, they are happy to talk to you by phone on 01223 746127 or answer any questions via email: Tiina email@example.com and Liam firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dementia in Down’s Syndrome research group wishes you and your family a very happy Christmas!