A new study adds evidence about the potential benefits of green tea extracts in Down syndrome. Researchers observed that the intake of those extracts can reduce facial dysmorphology in children with Down syndrome when taken during the first three years of life.
Down syndrome is caused by the presence of a third copy of chromosome 21, leading to an overexpression of the genes in this region and resulting in several physical and intellectual disabilities. One of the genes, DYRK1A, contributes to altering brain and bone development in people with Down syndrome. The green tea compound EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is known to inhibit DYRK1A activity, although it also has other mechanisms of action. Previous research has shown the potential of EGCG to improve cognition in young adults with Down syndrome.
Researchers analysed the effect of green tea supplements on facial development in Down syndrome. In the experimental part of the study, the EGCG supplements were tested in mice at different dosages. In a second part of the research, they did an observational study on children with and without Down syndrome. This work, led by the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and University of Barcelona in Spain and KU Leuven in Belgium, is an international effort involving researchers from University of Central Florida, La Salle -University Ramon Llull, and IMIM -Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute.
For the mouse study, carried out at KU Leuven, the researchers started the treatment before birth, while the pups were developing in the wombs of their mothers, by adding either a low or a high dose of green tea extracts to their drinking water. “The low dose treatment had a positive effect on mice that are a model of Down syndrome,” Professor Greetje Vande Velde (KU Leuven) comments, co- lead author of the study. “Sixty percent of them showed a facial shape similar to the control group.”
“All participants were photographed from various angles to create a 3D model of their faces,” explains Neus Martínez- Abadías, professor at the University of Barcelona and co-lead author of the study. “We use 21 facial landmarks, and the distances between them, to compare the faces of the participants. After green tea supplementation, the facial dysmorphology decreases and the children with or without Down syndrome look more alike.”
“We didn’t identify a similar effect in the adolescent group. Even when treated with green tea extracts, children with Down syndrome still show a difference of more than 50 percent compared to the control group. These findings suggest that the green tea supplements only affect facial development when they are administered in the early stages of life when the face and skull are rapidly growing.”More research is needed in humans to determine the optimal dose at each age that maximizes the potential benefits.