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I wonder if Down Syndrome activists will argue …

... that there is nothing wrong with being mentally retarded (along the same lines as deaf "activists" who argue against cochlear implants for hearing-impaired children).

Down syndrome researchers see promise in PTZ, or pentylenetetrazole.
By Denise Gellene, L.A. Times Staff Writer

Lab mice with the mental retardation of Down syndrome got smarter after being fed a drug that strengthened brain circuits involved in learning and memory, researchers reported Sunday.

After receiving once-daily doses of pentylenetetrazole, or PTZ, for 17 days, the mice could recognize objects and navigate mazes as well as normal mice did, researchers said. The improvements lasted up to two months after the drug was discontinued, according to the report in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Scientists said the study opened a promising avenue for research in a field that had seen little success.

"These mice are essentially restored to normal, which I haven't seen before," said David Patterson, a Down syndrome researcher at the University of Denver, who was not involved in the study. "And the treatment seems to be long-lasting, which is a pretty surprising observation all by itself."

Senior study author Craig C. Garner, a Stanford School of Medicine professor, said his lab was preparing to conduct human trials of the drug, although he said it would take time to complete more preliminary studies and procure a supply of purified PTZ.

People with Down syndrome should not be given the drug until it has been studied further, he cautioned, because PTZ can induce seizures at high doses and might have other serious side effects.

More than 300,000 Americans have Down syndrome, making it the leading cause of mental retardation. There is no approved drug to improve cognition in people with Down syndrome.


iTunes is currently playing: Things We've Handed Down from the album The Rainy Season by Marc Cohn.

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