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Friday October 23, 2020

Mice treated with apigenin had better memory and developmental milestone scores.


The plant compound apigenin improved cognitive and memory deficits generally seen in a Down syndrome mouse model, according to a study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and other institutions. Apigenin is found in chamomile flowers, parsley, celery, mint, and citrus fruits. The researchers fed the compound to pregnant mice bearing fetuses with features of Down syndrome and then to the animals after they were born and as they matured. The findings raise the possibility that a treatment to decrease the cognitive deficits seen in Down syndrome may one day be offered to pregnant women whose fetuses have been diagnosed with Down syndrome through prenatal testing. The study appears in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Down syndrome is a set of symptoms that result from an extra copy or fragment of chromosome 21. The intellectual and developmental disabilities that accompany the condition are thought to be the result of decreased brain growth caused by increased inflammation. in the fetal brain. Apigenin is not known to have toxic effects, and previous studies have indicated that it is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation. Unlike many compounds, it is absorbed through the placenta and the blood-brain barrier, the cell layer that prevents potentially harmful substances from entering the brain. Compared to mice with Down’s symptoms whose mothers were not fed apigenin, those exposed to the compound showed improvements on developmental milestone tests and had improvements in spatial and olfactory memory. Tests for gene activity and protein levels showed that mice treated with apigenin had less inflammation and increased growth of blood vessels and the nervous system.

The NIH portion of the study was conducted at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). NIH provided additional funding Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).


Diana W. Bianchi, MD, Director of the NICHD and Principal Investigator in the Medical Genetics Branch of NHGRI, is available for comment.


Guedj, F. et al. Apigenin as a candidate prenatal treatment for trisomy 21: effects on human amniocytes and the Ts1Cje mouse model. American Journal of Human Genetics. 2020.

About Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD leads research and training to understand human development, improve reproductive health, improve the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize the capabilities of all. For more information, visit

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