Thursday, October 4, 2012

Medical Breakthroughs: Bone Mass in Down Syndrome Patients

There are 3,000 people in the State of Arkansas living with Down syndrome.

A doctor at UAMS sees many of those patients, and says he started to notice a common thread among them that will help develop new treatments for patients.

Down syndrome expert, Dr. Kent McKelvey gets really busy at UAMS after many years of treating patients.

"They're living longer and happier and healthier lives," he says.

He sees just about all of the patients that have Down syndrome in the state.

After treating all the Down syndrome patients that he sees everyday, he began to wonder why so many were having bone fractures.

So he took his question to Dr. Larry Suva, Director of the UAMS center for orthopedic research who has seen studies on this issue.

"In the past those studies had been done with comparing the Down syndrome bone density with people with a variety of other cognitive functional disorders like schizophrenia or people that were instutionalized - completely the wrong way to do it," he says.

So researchers at UAMS compared the bones of people with Down syndrome to people with normal bone density.

"They were not elevated, they were suppressed, suggesting that Down syndrome people don't have low bone mass because of osteoporosis - increase loss of bone," he says.

They have low bone mass and fracture risk because their skeletons never accrue bone - their bone is always trying to make more.

Armed with this knowledge, Dr. McKelvey says doctors can focus on using preventative measures or treatments for increasing bone mass at an earlier age in Down syndrome patients.

Researchers will soon start using fruits, such as blueberries, for another potential treatment for increased bone mass.

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