It’s been known for decades that the incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is 20 times higher in children with Down syndrome than in the general population. And now- thanks to mice- researchers know why!
People with Down syndrome have an extra copy of part or all of chromosome 21. And by working with mice that carry extra copies of genes that are found on chromosome 21, researchers have identified the link between Down syndrome and ALL. Long story short, this particular type of leukemia is caused by an excess of abnormal white blood cells that are supposed to fight infections but don’t work properly. These mice led researchers to the specific proteins involved in this process, and they found- and confirmed in human cell samples- that the gene responsible for spurring the creation of these abnormal cells was an extra gene on chromosome 21. Link: discovered.
While there currently aren’t any drugs that target this specific gene, researchers now know where to focus. Now that they know where the problem lies, they can work to develop drugs that could potentially reduce the chances of a child with Down syndrome developing leukemia! It’s also possible that ALL patients without Down syndrome could benefit from this research.
It’s not good news yet; there’s still work to be done. But I support the fight against pediatric cancer- and the mice do, too!