October 13, 2015

Down Syndrome & Alzheimer's - Dr. Michael Harpold

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There is a strong connection between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease, and understanding this connection has the potential to lead to major advances in preventing or treating Alzheimer’s – both for individuals with Down syndrome and for the population as a whole.

Dr. Michael Harpold is Chief Scientific Officer of the LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation. He joined us for this month’s Alzheimer’s Talks call to discuss why individuals with Down syndrome experience Alzheimer’s disease earlier and at a much higher incidence and to talk about the latest research advances, including a groundbreaking new clinical trial and how this work can hopefully help find a treatment for everyone.

CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON AT LEFT TO HEAR THE DISCUSSION.

Key Highlights from the Call

People with Down syndrome are now living longer. Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically since the 1980s from fewer than 30 years to 60 years, due to medical advances and more inclusionary interventions and policies.

There is a strong connection between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. The amyloid precursor protein (APP), which plays a major role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, is located on chromosome 21, the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. This could represent an effective potential drug target for Alzheimer’s disease.

People with Down syndrome could provide key information about Alzheimer’s. Many researchers now believe that early intervention will be crucial to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s. Virtually everyone with Down syndrome develops the neuropathology of Alzheimer’s disease by their 40s. There are more than 350,000 people in the U.S. with Down syndrome who will develop or are living with Alzheimer’s disease. They develop the pathology and symptoms 20 to 25 years earlier than the general population.

A groundbreaking new clinical trial for Alzheimer’s in individuals with Down syndrome is about to begin. The trial will look at ACI-24, an anti-Abeta vaccine that was developed by AC Immune and overcame characteristic neurodegeneration and restored memory deficits in a mouse model with no inflammatory side effects. There is a Phase I/II trial of this vaccine with Alzheimer’s patients in Scandinavian countries, but this will be the first trial specifically for individuals with Down syndrome.

Thank you to Dr. Michael Harpold for sharing his important research. Thank you also to the Zickler Family Foundation and Karen and Chris Segal for their generous support, which made this call possible.