Down Syndrome Treatment: New Nanomaterial Shows Promise


Scientists at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) have discovered that nano-sized carbon materials derived from the oxidation of carbon-rich sources can be used to treat Down syndrome and other disorders associated with high levels of hydrogen sulfide.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is primarily known as a by-product of petroleum production characterized by a “rotten egg” odor. This noxious gas is also produced naturally from the anaerobic decomposition, or fermentation, of organic matter – when bacteria break down animal waste, food waste, and other organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Hydrogen sulfide is synthesized in living organisms, where it plays an important role in the function of bones, brain, liver and kidneys, as well as regulates the dilation of blood vessels and completes the electron transport chain.

One of the most well-known conditions associated with high levels of hydrogen sulfide is Down’s syndrome. This genetic disorder is associated with decreased function of many systems over time, including the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Previous studies have hypothesized that reducing circulating levels of H2S may improve function in individuals with Down syndrome. However, hydrogen sulfide is necessary for normal biological function, so direct inhibition of enzyme synthesis can be detrimental.

An innovative and collaborative study led by Dr. Thomas A. Kent, Robert A. Welch Chair Professor at Texas A&M Health Institute of Biosciences and Technology and Texas A&M University School of Medicine, revealed how nano-sized carbon materials derived from the oxidation of various carbon-rich sources can act as mediators of several therapeutic reactions and improve outcomes in experimental models ranging from stroke, hemorrhage, trauma, and mitochondrial toxicity. This paper, published in a high-impact journal Advanced Materialshighlighted the ability of carbon nanomaterials to enhance function and survival in Down syndrome-derived cells.

This research describes how easily synthesized carbon nanomaterials can provide a new approach to treating impaired levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide in disorders such as Down’s syndrome and many others. Instead of blocking its production, hydrogen sulfide is converted into its metabolites which offer many beneficial functions such as modifying proteins to increase their ability to act as antioxidants. These materials act as nano-sized synthetic enzymes, called nanozymes, which so far have not shown obvious toxicity in different experimental models and are well tolerated while protecting against acute and chronic injury.

“We are very excited about this research because we believe we have found a way to treat many disorders using carbon-based materials and easy and simple synthesis methods,” Kent said. “We hope these materials will provide a novel approach to treating high hydrogen sulfide disorder, by converting it into beneficial metabolites as exemplified by Down’s syndrome.

“We are constantly discovering new actions, all of which have been beneficial so far and may be just the tip of the iceberg of what these materials can do to support important biological functions in conditions where they are threatened.” he continued.

The authors of this study intend to bring these ingredients to market for use in therapy and are currently patent pending. Researchers from Texas A&M University, Rice University, UTHealth, Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend, and Houston Methodist Hospital co-authored the study. This work was funded by the Welch Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.



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