Duke researchers keeping eye on possible Down syndrome cure - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Duke researchers keeping eye on possible Down syndrome cure

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Jacob Moore, 8, takes a music therapy class at his Alpharetta, Ga., home.  (AP Photo/Jenni Girtman) Jacob Moore, 8, takes a music therapy class at his Alpharetta, Ga., home. (AP Photo/Jenni Girtman)
DURHAM, N.C. -

New research shows there could be a cure of sorts possible for Down syndrome.

NBC News reports scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found a way to silence the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

It's a development doctors and researchers in the Triangle, including at Duke Medicine, are watching closely.

"I thought this was a really exciting study because it really pushed the envelope in terms of how we study Down syndrome," said Dr. Loren Pena, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke who also runs Down syndrome clinics.

She said the research by scientists shows it may be possible to prevent long-term complications caused by Down syndrome by using gene therapy, essentially turning off the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

Pena said most likely the treatment would be possible after a child is born, though she said treatment might be possible before birth, too.

She said that complicates the difficult ethical dilemma facing couples who might otherwise decide to end a pregnancy if they didn't have the treatment option.

"Some couples might try and decide whether they want to pursue this type of technology if they want to have a child with Down syndrome and let nature run its course," Pena said.

Pena said the study has shown in principle it's possible to silence that chromosome. That could be applied to other conditions too.

For now, it's been proven in the lab. The next step is likely animal research, she said.

Pena said the true impact in humans is still likely years away.

For more information, click here: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/could-it-be-cure-breakthrough-prompts-down-syndrome-soul-searching-6C10879213

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Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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