UW effort to map Down syndrome brain raises prospect of treatment for disorder

Daifeng Wang, Anita Bhattacharyya, Su-Chun Zhang and André Sousa

David Wahlberg | Wisconsin State Journal

In a lab near UW Hospital, Megan Jandy grows stem cells from people with Down syndrome — 10 batches of cells, most in three-dimensional clusters, each batch featuring one group with the extra chromosome that causes the disorder and one group without it.

Under a microscope, the graduate student examines clusters 33 days after they were created. The clumps, coaxed to become brain cells, look like tiny potatoes, marked with dots that suggest sprouts, or eyes. Each dot could become a ventricle, which in a fully developed brain contains cerebral spinal fluid.

“It gives the cells signals of what they need to become,” she said.

Jandy and other UW-Madison scientists are creating an atlas of the prenatal brain in Down syndrome. The multi-layered catalog will show how cell types, gene expression and functions like synapse-firing differ at various stages of fetal development between people who have the condition and those who don’t.

Read the rest of the story at the Wisconsin State Journal website.

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