The XVI International Conference Barcelona Down

European experts are gathering to expand their knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease in adults with Down’s syndrome. 

The XVI International Conference Barcelona Down "Intellectual disability and cognitive impairment in Down syndrome: From birth to old age,” brought experts from different countries together to combine their efforts, create synergies and increase awareness of the link between Down’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Catalan Minister of Health, Boi Ruiz, who chaired the opening conference, considered the agreement presented in 2014 between the Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau and the Catalan Down’s Syndrome Foundation as a huge breakthrough for the early detection and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndrome. In addition, it was stated that behind this agreement, “we will take charge of the public health of the country, because we understand, and we will consider this union to be that of a public health system for the country.”

The conference was brought to a close by Dr Sebastián Videla, Healthcare Director and Head of Clinical Research for the Down Medical Centre (CMD) at the Catalan Down Syndrome Foundation and Katy Trias, General Director of the Catalan Down Syndrome Foundation. They wanted to close the conference with a positive message by emphasising that although “the reality of the situation is difficult, there is a group of people eager to expand the medical, scientific and social knowledge that will continue into old age for people with Down syndrome,” and, “We want to surpass ourselves as this will enable us to face challenges in a better way.”

During the two-day conference, experts from the Catalan Down Syndrome Foundation and other renowned organisations on a national and international scale shared and explained their research and progress. Among those in attendance were experts from the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation in France, the Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, the LonDowns Consortium in the United Kingdom and the Centre for Genomic Regulation, as well as leading research centres for Alzheimer’s disease, such as the Hospital de la Santa Cruz y San Pablo, the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, University College London in the United Kindom, and the ACE Foundation.

Cognitive impairment of people with intellectual disabilities

Due to a better quality of life and greater access to healthcare, the life expectancy of people with Down’s syndrome has significantly increased. In this way, life expectancy has increased from 30 years in 1970 to 60 years today.

This new reality poses different challenges for us as a society. For example, the ageing process and the disease progression for people with Down’s syndrome is linked to Alzheimer’s disease because of the trisomy of chromosome 21, where amyloid precursor protein (APP) is produced, which is also found in people with Alzheimer’s.

In light of this new situation, the Catalan Down’s Syndrome Foundation has concentrated their efforts on facing these new challenges and providing solutions to people with Down syndrome and their families.

In 2012, the Down Medical Centre of the Catalan Down Syndrome Foundation launched the Down syndrome and Alzheimer disease support unit. Their aim was to give medical and social support to people already affected by Alzheimer disease, to recognise the cognitive abilities of all adults with Down syndrome over 18 years old as a method for early diagnosis of Alzheimer disease, and to create a list of adults with Down syndrome and Alzheimer disease.

In 2014, the Hospital de la Santa Cruz y San Pablo and the Catalan Down Syndrome Foundation signed an agreement to work together for the early detection of Alzheimer disease in people with Down syndrome.

Medical conventions and international conferences

The Catalan Down Syndrome Foundation has been organising medical conventions and international conferences on Down syndrome for the last 30 years, and it is one of the important dates on the Foundation’s calendar.

The aim is to offer a place for discussion and reflection in order to assess the current rights for people with Down syndrome, and to establish the way forward for specific matters discussed in each issue. Conferences are aimed at relatives and professionals from fields of health, education and social care.

The speakers who participate are front-line experts and professionals on a national and international scale, as well as people with Down syndrome and their families.

You can find information on all medical conventions and international conferences organised by the Foundation by clicking on this link

Translation by Christina Cordaroy and proof-reading by Paul Lopez within the initiative PerMondo. Managed by the translation agency Mondo Agit.