Dyrk1A, the flagship gene of Saint Malo’s international scientific conference

Several research teams around the world are interested in one aspect or another of the gene Dyrk1a and regularly publish the results of their research. The Jérôme Lejeune Foundation along with Dr Laurent Meijer (Manros), Dr Conrad Kunick (Braunschweig University) and Yann Hérault (the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology of the University of Strasbourg) brought together the world’s best researchers at an international scientific conference from March 28th (evening) to April 1st 2017 at the Palais du Grand Large in Saint Malo(France).

The gene Dyrk1a is an important object of study due to its proven implication in many diseases such as Down Syndrome, the mental retardation disease MRD7, autism but also in Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, and diabetes. It is a pivot gene which develops strong interactions with other genes such as the CBS. Researching pharmacological kinase inhibitors such as DYRK1A has become a major field of research in the pharmaceutical industry for the research and development of new therapies. Around 30 new drugs have thus turned up on the market, most of them used to treat various cancers.

For people with Down Syndrome, the study of the gene DYRK1A is a therapeutic target of major interest. It is involved in the brain development and synaptic plasticity of patients with Down Syndrome. Two therapeutic trials (EGCG research programmes) have shown that decreasing the gene’s activity provides a modest improvement of cognitive functions (visual recognition memory and inhibition capabilities). Within this framework, Doctor Cécile Cieuta-Walli, pediatric neurologist at the Jérôme Lejeune Institute, presented a preclinical study on the tolerance and identification of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate biomarkers (EGCG) using 3 different doses in wild and transgenic DYRK1A mice (models for Down Syndrome). ECGC is a molecule found in large quantities in green tea. The mice showed good tolerance to the 3 doses administered and it enabled the researchers to choose effective biomarkers for DYRK1A inhibition in view of a future clinical study at the Lejeune Institute including children with Down Syndrome.

« To bring together the world’s greatest Dyrk1a specialists is a chance for research in general, but even more so for research with a therapeutic purpose for Down Syndrome”, says Cécile. We were able to realize to what extent decreasing the overexpression of this gene is a major therapeutic objective to improve the patients’ situation”.

On Saturday 1st April, the conference was opened to the general public, parents and doctors alike, in order to present the congress’ results to them and answer their questions. The Foundation’s team left the conference feeling more confident about the therapeutic possibilities provided by research on Dyrk1A.