Twelve-year-old Lily Smith is rarely without her mother. Her mother knows Lily will never progress to a point mentally where it will be safe for her to leave home. Lily is one of many that University of Utah researcher and physician, Dr. Julie Korenberg, is trying to help.
Korenberg is studying those with down syndrome, hoping new discoveries will pave the way to bettering their lives.
"This is the time to apply very basic understandings of the brain to helping people and Utah is the place to do it," Korenberg says.
Utah is the optimal place because it has the highest rate of babies being born with down syndrome because most women here choose to keep their baby after they receive diagnosis.
"This is a family place. This is a place where people work together," Korenberg says.
And that cohesiveness is helping the doctors find many participants willing to take part in her research.
"We have a mouse that has down syndrome and we've found that if we just change it's surroundings to a simpler setting, we can help it learn," Korenberg said.
The type of research may one day help children like Lily be able to live on her own
With the help of a nearly $3 million grant, Korenberg hopes to find answers to how those with down syndrome can become more self sufficient and possibly how pregnant women could be treated to prevent the disorder from occurring.
The grant money will fund the next five years of research. Korenberg says it is only the beginning of the research she plans to do to help better the lives of people living with Down syndrome.