Scientists at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) have mapped out the precise function of a protein, which may lead to a better understanding of how to help those with Down syndrome.
The protein, known as SNX27, was previously known to be related to memory formation. Insufficient amounts of SNX27 mean that nerve cells cannot pass chemical signals to one another properly. This, in turn, impairs the brain's ability to form memories.
As Down syndrome sufferers are born with 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46, resulting in lower levels of the protein, they often have difficulty in forming memories, which affects their learning ability.
However, it was not known exactly how SNX27 was related to memory impairment.
Experts at A*Star's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology have discovered that SNX27 is key in moving another protein to the surface of the cell, helping cells signal to one another.
Lower levels of SNX27 mean the other protein cannot be moved so efficiently, which leads to impairment of memory formation.
Dr Loo Li Shen, who led the research, said: "Our research goes beyond the lab to make a difference by finding ways to grant these fundamental capabilities to those diagnosed with Down syndrome. Our ultimate goal is to create a positive impact on the lives of these valuable children."