Saturday, November 5, 2011

$2.96 million grant to fund research on genes that cause Down syndrome

from Deseret News:

A team of University of Utah investigators has received a $2.96 million grant to fund research on genes that cause Down syndrome and intellectual disability.

The team will study genes and brain structure, as well as the circuitry and chemical signals that lead to the development of Down syndrome.

"We'll be taking a revolutionary first look at how brain circuits are related to behavior, intelligence and brain function," said University of Utah USTAR professor Julie Korenberg. USTAR is a state-funded initiative to support technology and science research in Utah by recruiting top scientists to Utah institutions, as well as funding the construction of state-of-the-art science facilities for research.

Korenberg said this approach to studying Down syndrome is unprecedented and integrates genetics, neuroimaging and cognitive testing into the research. The U.'s team represents internationally recognized researchers from more than 10 different departments. Local families, coordinated through the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation, will participate in the study.

"Our state has an amazing network of support, which includes families, community members and professionals," said Ann Marie Christensen, UDSF board president.

The grant is co-funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health.

Down syndrome affects more than 400,000 individuals in the United States and is the most common cause of cognitive disability and Alzheimer's disease. There have been significant advances in the understanding of Down syndrome, however, most of those studies have been conducted on mice with an equivalent of the condition. The U.'s study will be looking at the condition in humans.

Team members will also include co-principal investigator and imaging expert Guido Gerig, associate professor of radiology E.K. Jeong, professor of cardiology Jeffrey Anderson, professor of pediatrics John Carey, and professor of pediatrics Nicola Longo.

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