Down syndrome and iPS: when science and ethics converge

Publié le : 26 July 2013

 The discovery regarding Down syndrome by Professor Jeanne Lawrence’s team (Massachusetts), aiming to neutralise the third chromosome 21 in vitro (Gènéthique press review on July 15th, 2013), is fuelling "fresh hope in Down syndrome research", said the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation in a press release on 19 July 2013. The Lejeune Foundation, the leading French financial backer of research into genetic disorders affecting intelligence, welcomed this research which looks extremely promising despite its very early stages. On the one hand, chromosome 21 can be neutralised and, on the other hand, research into Down syndrome is making progress.  Science and ethics can finally head in the same direction.

The research conducted by the Massachusetts team has just shown that the third chromosome 21 can currently be neutralised by 20% by inactivating it. This neutralisation phenomenon "was already covered in the Stem Cell journal in December 2012 by David W. Russel’s team," which also succeeded in neutralising the third chromosome 21 by triggering its expulsion.
Based on these discoveries, the Lejeune Foundation notes that "research into Down syndrome is advancing because he who seeks shall find". In fact, in six months, two American teams have uncovered what seemed beyond the realms of possibility just two years ago: the deactivation or expulsion in-vitro of the third chromosome 21. The Foundation regrets that the French authorities do not recognise these advances, thus compelling it to concentrate solely on research into Down syndrome. It nevertheless welcomes the fact that the work carried out by Jeanne Lawrence’s team is based first and foremost on a study conducted by Professor Mégarbané at the Jérôme Lejeune Institute.        
Last, but not least, the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, which was involved in unveiling the iPS cells commended in Yamanaka’s 2006 Nobel Prize and stressed their potential as an alternative to human embryonic cells in recent discussions on authorised embryo research, welcomes the fact that the iPS cells used by these last two teams, also work on Down syndrome. The Foundation points out that "once again, ethics and science are heading in the same direction".

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