Down syndrome (DS) is a developmental disorder whose mental impairment is due to defective cortical development. Human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) derived from fetal DS cortex initially produce normal numbers of neurons, but generate fewer neurons with time in culture, similar to the pattern of neurogenesis that occurs in DS in vivo. Microarray analysis of DS hNPCs at this critical time reveals gene changes indicative of defects in interneuron progenitor development. In addition, dysregulated expression of many genes involved in neural progenitor cell biology points to changes in the progenitor population and subsequent reduction in interneuron neurogenesis. Delineation of a critical period in interneuron development in DS provides a foundation for investigation of the basis of reduced neurogenesis in DS and defines a time when these progenitor cells may be amenable to therapeutic treatment.

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