The role of sleep in people with Down’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease
Dr Stephanie Brown
University of Cambridge
28 February 2022 - 17 February 2025
Full project name:
The role of sleep dysfunction in Down syndrome Alzheimer’s disease: Novel applied methodologies
Researchers are using powerful brain scanning techniques to investigate how sleep affects brain changes in people with Down’s syndrome (DS).
People with Down's syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, meaning they get an extra copy of the genes kept on this chromosome. One of the genes contained on chromosome 21 is the amyloid precursor protein, which produces a protein called amyloid. A build up of amyloid in the brain is one of the hallmark features of Alzheimer's, and around 60% of people with Down's syndrome develop Alzheimer’s before the age of 60. Studying the link between Down's syndrome and Alzheimer's could reveal vital insight into both conditions.
What will they do?
In this project, Dr Brown from the University of Cambridge will study the degenerative brain changes in people with Down’s syndrome using sophisticated brain scanning techniques. Recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allow Dr Brown to scan and take high resolution images of the brain.
As well as brain scans, Dr Brown will also conduct several experiments to investigate how sleep is associated with degenerative brain changes in Down’s syndrome. These include measuring proteins associated with Down’s syndrome and sleep from blood samples, monitoring the sleeping patterns with a Fitbit, and carrying out memory tests.
This project aims to answer the question of how sleep quality affects brain changes in people with Down’s syndrome, a high-risk group for Alzheimer's disease. This can inform the development of new treatments and preventions, as sleep is a promising target for therapies that may delay the onset and reduce the severity of Alzheimer’s in people with Down’s syndrome.
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