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San Diego Researchers Find Down Syndrome, Alzheimer's Link

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San Diego Researchers Find Down Syndrome, Alzheimer's Link
By the age of 40, nearly everyone with Down syndrome has signs of Alzheimer's disease forming in their brain. San Diego researchers discovered one reason why in a new study.

By the age of 40, nearly everyone with Down syndrome has signs of Alzheimer's disease forming in their brain. In a new study, San Diego researchers discovered one reason why.

There's a lot researchers already know about the link between Down syndrome and Alzheimer's.

People with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21. That's where you'll find genes implicated in the formation of amyloid plaques, sticky clumps of dead neurons that form in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Because Down syndrome patients have more of these genes, their brains tend to exhibit more plaque at an earlier age.

In a paper published this week in the journal Cell Reports, Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute professor Huaxi Xu discovered how this plaque is regulated.

Xu and his colleagues found a specific protein, sorting nexin 27, that helps keep beta-amyloid production in check.

"This protein is able to reduce beta-amyloid formation," Xu said.

The problem is that this protein is in short supply for Down syndrome patients. Xu said if researchers could find a way to boost the protein, they could narrow their search for an Alzheimer's drug.