Cough syrup might have an even better purpose than being the cure for the common cold.
Researchers from Australia’s Monash University say an ingredient found in the medicine might help people with Down syndrome improve their language skills, the Australian Broadcasting Company reports.
"To date management has tended to focus on treating the physical complications of Down syndrome, but we now have a better understanding of the science underlying how Down syndrome impacts brain function to cause cognitive disability," Associate Professor Bob Davis said in a statement.
The ingredient in question is called BTD-001, and according to the research, might improve the conductivity of the nerves in the brain. Past research has shown that individuals with Down syndrome have less conductivity, ABC reports.
In the past, the same ingredient found in cough syrup has been used to treat those with dementia, persistent coughs and even Alzheimer’s disease.
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The trial is the first of its kind, and Davis believes its results can have a tremendous effect on the quality of life for those living with Down syndrome. He points to the life events like learning at school, becoming self-reliant, getting a job and managing personal finances, he said in a statement.
The study stems from recent research out of Stanford University that found the potential of BTD-001 to improve reasoning, memory and learning for people with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is a condition where a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, which leads to physical and intellectual disabilities. Just under 6 million people worldwide are living with Down syndrome.
Catherine McAlpine, head of Down Syndrome Australia, says she supports the medicine potential to improve independence and its ability to help those currently living with Down syndrome as opposed to other trials which involve prenatal testing.
But there is a clear distinction between quality of life and increased cognition for those living with the genetic condition, she told ABC.
“They're not the same thing," she said.
The clinical trial involves participants between the ages of 13 and 35 from seven major Australian cities.
Michael Buxton, 30, is one of the trial’s participants. He told Perth Now that he went to regular schools but was frustrated when people had difficulties understanding him.
"If the medicine is successful, I hope I will be able to think and speak more clearly so people can understand what I am trying to say better," he told the news outlet.