Scientists Discover Possible Treatment for Down Syndrome

September 7, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. shut off [SHUHT-awf, -of] (v. phrase) – to stop something from working
Example: Shutting off a whole chromosome means removing its function.

2. revolutionary [rev-uh-LOO-shuh-ner-ee] (adj.) – involving or causing a complete change
Example: A revolutionary drug discovered in seaweed gives new hope to cancer patients.

3. defect [DEE-fekt, dih-FEKT ] (n.) – a shortcoming or an imperfection
Example: People with Down syndrome may have a variety of birth defects.

4. prospect [PROS-pekt] (n.) – chances or opportunities of something happening
Example: Scientists are still working on some prospects for AIDS treatment.

5. leap [leep] (n.) – a huge improvement; often happens suddenly
Example: With the impressive discovery, the scientists have made a major leap forward.


Read the text below.
American scientists have recently discovered a possible way to cure Down syndrome—by "shutting off" the extra chromosome that causes the disease.

Dr. Jeanne Lawrence from the University of Massachusetts Medical School led the research, which was published in the journal called Nature. With this revolutionary research, experts wish to further discover new treatments and give hope to children with Down syndrome.

Normally, humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in a single cell, including one pair of sex chromosomes. However, people with Down syndrome are born with three copies of chromosome 21, instead of two. The extra chromosome may cause learning disability, Alzheimer's [AHLTS-hahy-merz] disease, a greater risk of blood disorder, and heart defects.

The latest research used the so-called the XIST gene, which helps inactivate the extra chromosome. The XIST gene plays a vital role at the chromosome level in a female embryo’s sexual development as it switches off the extra chromosome.

Using this gene, the scientists managed to silence the extra copy of chromosome 21, thus eliminating its effects and the unusual growth patterns inside the cell.

Although this breakthrough raises the prospect of gene therapy for Down’s syndrome for the first time, the scientists stressed that a great deal of research is still needed to confirm if the procedure can be used for medical application.

While further research is still needed, many experts think that the findings of this study can already be considered as a major leap in finding treatment for Down syndrome.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How do you think this discovery can help the people with Down’s syndrome?
·         Is it important to make further research on such discovery before using it for treatment? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         Do you think such researches should be funded by the government? Why do you say so?
·         Given the chance, would you want to fund a research for such cause? Why or why not?


September 7, 2013