"Sonic Hedgehog" protein fights Down Syndrome

Video games are everywhere – including in the lab. US researchers have recently reversed the effects of Down syndrome in lab mice, thanks to an experimental protein named after one of gaming’s favourite characters.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine in Baltimore had genetically engineered lab mice to show Down syndrome-like conditions, illustrated by their difficulty in navigating a simple maze. Several of these newborn mice were given an experimental compound – the sonic hedgehog pathway agonist.

The sonic hedgehog protein is essential for development – and scientists have uncovered how to trigger its creation. Lab mice were injected with an experimental compound containing a gene known as SHH, known to boost normal growth of the body and brain. This gene creates the sonic hedgehog protein which created “unexpected benefits” in learning and memory in the tested mice.

The mice showed “unexpected benefits” in learning and memory, soon performing just as well as normal mice in a water maze test and showing normal brain growth. Scientist Roger Reeves explains the experiment “worked beautifully”.

At this stage, the treatment has “no direct link” to a treatment for humans, but it is a step in the right direction, and Reeves’ work continues – we’re waiting for the announcement of a tails fox molecule, perhaps by Dr. Eggman himself?

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