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Maternal Choline Supplementation: A Potential Prenatal Treatment for Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease

[ Vol. 13 , Issue. 1 ]


Barbara J. Strupp, Brian E. Powers, Ramon Velazquez, Jessica A. Ash, Christy M. Kelley, Melissa J. Alldred, Myla Strawderman, Marie A. Caudill, Elliott J. Mufson and Stephen D. Ginsberg   Pages 97 - 106 ( 10 )


Although Down syndrome (DS) can be diagnosed prenatally, currently there are no effective treatments to lessen the intellectual disability (ID) which is a hallmark of this disorder. Furthermore, starting as early as the third decade of life, DS individuals exhibit the neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with subsequent dementia, adding substantial emotional and financial burden to their families and society at large. A potential therapeutic strategy emerging from the study of trisomic mouse models of DS is to supplement the maternal diet with additional choline during pregnancy and lactation. Studies demonstrate that maternal choline supplementation (MCS) markedly improves spatial cognition and attentional function, as well as normalizes adult hippocampal neurogenesis and offers protection to basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs) in the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS. These effects on neurogenesis and BFCNs correlate significantly with spatial cognition, suggesting functional relationships. In this review, we highlight some of these provocative findings, which suggest that supplementing the maternal diet with additional choline may serve as an effective and safe prenatal strategy for improving cognitive, affective, and neural functioning in DS. In light of growing evidence that all pregnancies would benefit from increased maternal choline intake, this type of recommendation could be given to all pregnant women, thereby providing a very early intervention for individuals with DS, and include babies born to mothers unaware that they are carrying a fetus with DS.


Attention, basal forebrain, choline, cholinergic neurons, hippocampus, spatial learning, and Ts65Dn mice.


Division of Nutritional Sciences and Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.

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