SU scientist earns grant for project that may lead to treatment of autism, other conditions

 

The National Institute of Health has awarded Southern University a three-year grant, totaling $331,560, to work on a project that will help researchers develop therapies to treat autism and Huntington's Disease.

 

The grant was secured by Dr. Eduardo Martinez-Ceballos, the newly elected Chair of Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Toxicology. The grant will provide assistantships for up to four SU graduate and undergraduate students per year.

 

The findings from the project will help researchers develop new tissue replacement therapies that may be used to treat autism, Huntington's disease and other human neurological conditions.

 

The official title of the project is "Regulation of Hoxa1 Gene Expression in Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells."

 

Martinez-Ceballos explained that the project seeks to understand the mechanism by which the expression of a certain Hoxa1 gene is regulated in vertebrate cells. The Hoxa1 gene plays important roles during embryonic brain development and, since Hoxa1 is also a known oncogene (a gene that has potential to cause cancer), its misregulation may be an important factor in the development of a number of human cancers.

 

"The results obtained from this project will allow researchers to develop new tissue replacement therapies and may shed light on the molecular mechanism by which Hoxa1 induces tumorigenesis (the formation of cancer)," he said.  

 

The short-term goal of the project, he said, is to study the role of the Hoxa1 protein on the differentiation of mouse Embryonic Stem cells into neurons.