A £1m brain-imaging study has just been launched at the University of Cambridge to investigate why people with Down’s syndrome (DS) are at such high risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Almost 100% of people with Down’s Syndrome develop pathological signs of Alzheimer’s, and clinical symptoms are seen in Down’s Syndrome around 40 years earlier than in the general population"—Professor Tony Holland
There are 700,000 cases of dementia in the UK, costing £17 billion a year, and these figures are predicted to rise with the ageing population. Besides the rare familial forms of Alzheimer’s, DS is the only known disorder in which one can so clearly expect early-onset dementia to develop.
Professor Tony Holland, of the Cambridge Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Group, who is leading the research, said: "Almost 100% of people with DS develop pathological signs of Alzheimer’s, and clinical symptoms are seen in DS around 40 years earlier than in the general population."
The research team is looking for individuals with DS to volunteer to take part in the study. The team has produced a short film – www.youtube.com/user/downsproject – to explain the testing process.
"People with DS are living longer lives, and better lives, but this can be a poisoned chalice, as with this comes a real risk of Alzheimer’s," said Professor Holland. “Now we need volunteers to come forward to help us explore what is happening to the brain."