Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

Packard Children's Down Syndrome Clinic
Providing supportive care -- and more

Summer 2007

Play eases the anxiety of Bernard Dannenberg's young patient.

The array of medical complications associated with Down syndrome can present a maze of appointments and logistics as trying for the patient as it is for the parent. The new Down Syndrome Clinic at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital simplifies life for families and physicians, too, by providing a single site for diagnosis and treatment. This concentrated attention helps physicians coordinate patients' care.

The comprehensive, multidisciplinary clinic -- the only one of its kind on the West Coast -- offers more than just convenience, however. It's closely associated with the university's Down Syndrome Research Center, which is devoted to basic laboratory research on the condition. Families throughout California and across the country are eagerly following the work of center scientists like neurologist William Mobley, MD, PhD, who studies mice with Down syndrome symptoms. Mobley's recent identification of a gene involved in the condition's cognitive difficulties provided what is for many parents the first glimmer of hope that there may one day be a treatment for Down syndrome.

Mobley, who directs both the research center and Stanford's Neuroscience Institute, said, "If we can change the expression of this gene, we may be able to provide something more than supportive care to people with Down syndrome."

Supportive care is what the Down Syndrome Clinic at Packard Children's does best. Like air-traffic controllers, clinic organizers schedule diverse medical specialists to meet with a child at each visit. This coordinated yet individualized approach to a child's medical care allows the physicians to become familiar with the family and ensures that the child's medical history is considered when planning any needed medical, genetic, developmental or psychological tests or therapies.

Help doesn't stop when the patient walks away from Packard Children's, either. Clinic specialists interact with each child's primary care physician, work to educate families and referring physicians about the particular needs of children with Down syndrome, and advocate for children and their families in the larger community.

"Relatively few places in the world integrate research and clinical care like we do," said Mobley. "We're committed to doing everything we can to help these kids."

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