The supposed ‘cure in a petri dish’ is just that — nonsense.
In the 14 years since her daughter, Rachel, was born with Down syndrome, Jawanda Mast has always been clear that she’d change the condition if she could.
“I couldn’t love her more, but I would give almost anything to take away that extra chromosome,” the Olathe, Kansas, mom wrote on her blog. “While I may know she’s perfect, the world doesn’t.”
But when Massachusetts scientists announced recently that they’ve found a way to silence the chromosome that causes trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome, it rocked Mast – and the rest of the disability community…
The researchers discovered that a gene called XIST — which normally turns off one of the two copies of the X chromosome in female mammals, including humans — could be inserted into the extra copy of chromosome 21 in lab cultures.
Using skin cells from a person with Down syndrome, they created pluripotent stem cells, which can form a range of different body cell types. When they inserted the XIST gene, they found that it effectively silenced the extra chromosome.
When they compared brain cells with and without the XIST gene, they found that those in which the extra chromosome had been suppressed grew more quickly and were better able to form progenitors of other brain cells, Lawrence said.