According to the CDC, roughly one in every 6,000 babies born in America has Down syndrome. Of that population, 77% experience a decline in cognitive capacity as they age, similar to Alzheimer’s disease. A recent Interesting Engineering article discussed a novel injection therapy that aims to enhance cognitive function in people with Down syndrome. Research has shown that neurons that produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which controls reproduction via the hypothalamus, can also affect other regions of the brain connected to cognitive processes.
With this knowledge, an Inserm team at the Lillie Neuroscience & Cognition laboratory working with scientists at Lausanne University Hospital is evaluating how GnRH injection therapy can enhance cognitive function in a small group of Down syndrome patients. They were able to show that restoring physiological GnRH system function restored cognitive and olfactory functions in mice in 15 days.
Next, the team conducted a clinical trial in patients to determine efficacy. Seven men with Down syndrome received subcutaneous GnRH doses every two hours for six months via a pump on the arm. Researchers administered cognitive and olfactory tests, MRI scans, and other procedures before and after the treatment and found that six out of the seven patients had improved cognitive function. This included better 3D representation, understanding of instructions, reasoning, attention, and episodic memory.