Possible 'Cure' for Down Syndrome Seems So Wrong
by Mary Fischer
In what is no doubt very interesting news, a new scientific breakthrough has found a molecule to "reverse" the effects of Down syndrome in mice.
The mice involved in the research were genetically altered to mimic the characteristics of Down syndrome, and when they were born, they were given injections of the molecule, called sonic hedgehog pathway agonist. It urges on a gene that generates a protein shown to normalize the growth of the cerebellum -- a part of the brain that is typically 60 percent of its normal size in people who have Down syndrome.
The injections were also shown to improve memory and learning, which are controlled by the hippocampus.
And while there are no plans to attempt this sort of treatment on human newborns -- it does raise the question of whether or not parents would want the injections for their babies if it ever did become an option.
After thinking long and hard about what I would do if I had a baby with Down syndrome and there was the option of trying to reverse it -- the decision suddenly became crystal clear. I'm just not sure I could bring myself to do it -- unless I knew 100 percent that there were absolutely no risks involved -- and that I wasn't necessarily "changing" who my baby was by allowing the treatment.
Here's the thing -- I'm an "everything happens for a reason and things are meant to be" type of person. And when it comes to babies, I firmly believe that you get the child you are supposed to have -- and you love that baby unconditionally no matter what.
I think that if I were to have a baby born with Down syndrome -- it would feel like I was somehow monkeying with nature by injecting him with something to physically alter who he is simply because he's not "perfect," -- and something about that doesn't seem right.
And I know the argument can be made that trying to "reverse" Down syndrome isn't really all that different from treating a baby who has an illness in the hopes of making him well again. But Down syndrome isn't a disease (or at least I've never thought of it that way at all) -- which makes me think that trying to reverse it is basically like trying to change a baby's genetic makeup.
But since being faced with making a decision like this is merely hypothetical, I guess I really can't know for sure how I would feel if I knew my child would not grow up and develop normally -- which is why I would never judge moms and dads who did make the choice to do this treatment should it ever become available to humans. Who knows -- maybe I'd feel the complete opposite if my son had Down syndrome. You can never really know what someone has gone through unless you walk a mile in their shoes, right?
The best thing any parents can do for their babies is whatever they feel in their hearts is the right thing. All we can really do is love our children wholeheartedly and do what we believe is best for them -- and hope that we've made the wisest possible choice.
Would you want your child to have this treatment?