February 12, 2018
Animals can get a version of Down syndrome.
Most of us have seen photos of adorable animals with dwarfism. Dwarfism is caused by hormonal deficiencies.
There are whole species of Dwarf This-or-That.
(Many species of dwarf animals have gone extinct.)
Down syndrome is caused by chromosomes.
Animal versions of Down syndrome are giving scientists hope of curing the HUMAN version of Down syndrome. (BIG hope in the case of newborn mice! )
When you check the links at the end of this blog, you'll find some photos of adorable animals with Down syndrome.
Here's a jigsaw-style explanation of how this possible cure may work.
(The Hedgehog signaling pathway is a signaling pathway that sends information to embryonic cells that tells them how to differentiate. Humans have it; several other animals that are bilaterians* have it too.)
About that cure....
“Cure Down syndrome with a single injection? Well, maybe--if you're a mouse. A team of scientists from John Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health have cured newborn mice of Down syndrome by injecting them with a drug that stimulates what's called the Sonic Hedgehog pathway (so-named because in flies, a lack of the Hedgehog signaling protein causes embryos to become prickly, hedgehog-like balls). ...
“But the drug is a long way from becoming a human cure. The Hedgehog pathway plays an important role when it comes to brain development, so fiddling with it could have unintended consequences.
*The Bilateria /ˌbaɪləˈtɪəriə/ or bilaterians... are animals with bilateral symmetry, i.e., they have a head ("anterior") and a tail ("posterior") as well as a back ("dorsal") and a belly ("ventral"); therefore they also have a left side and a right side. In contrast, radially symmetrical animals like jellyfish have a topside and a downside, but no identifiable front or back.
– from Wikipedia
(Yeah, that describes us, all right. I hope I don't owe a huge backlog of Bilaterian Club dues.)
Our world is bafflingly complex. And so are we!