A New Kind of Therapy has Been Shown to Improve Cognition in Patients With Downs Syndrome

March 10, 2023

Summary: Down’s syndrome is a genetic disorder, and more than 6000 children are born in the US yearly with this congenital anomaly. It causes many health issues such as anxiety disorder, in those living with down’s syndrome. However, intellectual disability is of particular concern for patients and doctors. Now a new study shows that pulsating GnRH therapy may help alleviate this issue in those born with down’s syndrome.

Down syndrome is among the most common congenital disorders, and it is not rare. In the US alone, more than 6000 children are born each year with the condition. Those living with the condition can expect to live long, but they have multiple disabilities. Thus, there is a need to find ways of reducing these disabilities. Those born with down’s syndrome have one extra copy of the chromosome. Therefore, they are born with 46 chromosomes. This causes a flattened face, almond-shaped eyes, short neck and ears, and other issues. However, doctors are worried about other health issues faced by those born with down’s syndrome, like hearing loss, ear infections, eye disease, and lower cognition.

It is a lifelong condition, and those living with down’s syndrome have difficulty integrating with society, not just due to physical disabilities but more due to lower intellectual abilities. Although they can learn to live an independent life with proper approaches like physical therapy and occupational therapy, they struggle in many aspects. Currently, there is no way to boost cognition or cure some of the issues faced by those living with down’s syndrome. Nonetheless, researchers are making progress. They think that there are few treatments that can significantly help those born with down’s syndrome, especially if these treatments are started early enough.

Researchers are particularly interested in improving cognition and olfaction in those living with down’s syndrome, as improving cognition may significantly improve their quality of life. In one of the new studies in mice, researchers made exciting observations. They found that mice living with low gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) demonstrate many issues similar to those seen in those living with down’s syndrome. In addition, these mice also have poor development of certain brain centers.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is one of the most vital hormones released by the pituitary gland in the brain. This hormone stimulates the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). It appears that GnRH has wide-ranging health effects. It may influence various brain centers. It is needed for the production of LH, FSH, and, thus, sex hormones. It is no secret that those living with down’s syndrome have low fertility. Generally, females have sub-fertility, and males are infertile.

Considering all the above observations, researchers thought that why not explore the role of GnRH therapy in those living with down’s syndrome? Though the production of GnRH is not nil in those living with down’s syndrome, its secretion is erratic, and not pulsatile as in healthy adults. Researchers found that normalizing GnRH secretion can boost cognitive abilities and prevent many disabilities and health issues seen in those living with down’s syndrome. They found that pulsatile GnRH therapy in mice could help them considerably, improving various brain connections. Thus, GnRH therapy in those born with down’s syndrome could effectively manage many health issues.

Here it is vital to note that these findings are intriguing in many ways. First, GnRH is readily available for clinical use. It is often used to treat infertility. It means that if these findings are confirmed in further studies, introducing this hormone for managing cognitive issues related to down’s syndrome would not pose significant challenges. Moreover, GnRH therapy in down’s syndrome may have other benefits, like improving male fertility.

The Takeaway

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By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP