Down syndrome study offers hope, needs participants

Down syndrome study offers hope, needs participants
Dr. Alberto Costa needs participants for a Down syndrome study. (Source: WOIO)
Dr. Alberto Costa needs participants for a Down syndrome study. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A promising new study is giving new hope for people with Down syndrome and their families.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that can cause physical and intellectual challenges.

Memantine, a drug that is already used to treat Alzheimer's patients, showed dramatic cognitive improvement when it was injected into mice with trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.

A pilot study is being done in people with Down syndrome in Denver, CO, while a larger study takes place in northeast Ohio.

"We did see there was a significant improvement in one measure of long term memory for people with Down syndrome," said Dr. Alberto Costa, who is heading the more extensive study at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.

Dr. Costa received a $5 million gr ant to fund the study and has a group of distinguished researchers in place. The only thing missing are they 110 young adults with Down syndrome needed to take part in the study.

The participants need to be between the ages of 15 and 32. Some will take the drug Memantine, while some will be given a placebo.

The whole trial lasts four months for the participant so exposure to the drug is limited.

"It's an FDA-approved drug with very few known side effects, and that's the very reason why I chose that drug to work with," Dr. Costa said.

Peter Bruening, 20, of Beachwood, just finished participating in the study. He is one of 10 who committed to the study.

Peter's mother says she really did not notice that much of a change in her son. She says she does not know whether he got the actual drug or the placebo, but she hopes other parents will decide to let their children participate.

"Memory is a big issue with our children, especially as they age, so having medication that's already been tested, that's already in the market place, but being tested through this clinical trial with young adults with Down syndrome, was of interest to us," explained Debbie Bruening.

If the new study is successful, it could mean a brighter future for people like Peter and for Dr. Costa's own daughter, who also has Down syndrome.

"I think the future looks a lot brighter for our kids. I think research will make that brighter future possible," Dr. Costa added.

If you are interested in being a part of this groundbreaking research study, contact coordinator Melissa Stasko, who works with Dr. Costa, at (216) 844-7281 or

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