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25th anniversary of the death of the scientist who discovered the cause of Down's Syndrome

Jerome Lejeune, honorary doctor by the University of Navarra in 1974, collaborated closely with Professor Álvaro del Amo, Dean of the School of Sciences.

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Francisco Javier Novo
PHOTO: Manuel Castells
29/03/19 13:18 Laura Juampérez

Next Wednesday, April 3, marks the 25th anniversary of the death of one of the most illustrious geneticist scientists of the 20th century: Jerome Lejeune, honorary doctor by the University of Navarra in 1974. Lejeune has gone down in history for having discovered that the cause of Down syndrome is due to an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Professor Francisco Javier Novo, Full Professor of Genetics of the University, recalls that when he joined department, in 1996, he learned one of the stories about Don Álvaro del Amo -first director of the department of Genetics and Dean of the School of Sciences between 1958 and 1964- and his friendship with Professor Lejeune: "Professor del Amo learned with him the technique of ordering chromosomes, thus becoming a pioneer of cytogenetics in Spain," recalls Novo, who in turn had met Jerome Lejeune when he was studying Medicine at the University of Santiago de Compostela. "He was already a prize-winning geneticist. He taught in the city at lecture. Afterwards, he held a colloquium with university students. deadline I was struck by his elegance and affable attention with everyone, but, above all, by a statement that stuck in my mind: he was confident that in ten years' time we would have a cure for Down's Syndrome".

"I think this reflects his great confidence that the research about this disease - which he enthusiastically promoted - would eventually bear fruit. Unfortunately, when he passed away in 1994, he was unable to see the great illusion of his life come true," adds Professor Novo.

Jerome Lejeune was named honorary doctor by the University of Navarra in 1974, as a result of the partnership close relationship he maintained with the Schools of Science and Medicine. "Remembering his figure, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his death on April 3, 2019, must serve as an inspiration for all those who continue to fight to make his dream come true: an effective treatment for those affected by chromosome 21 trisomy," emphasizes Francisco Javier Novo.