US Foundation awards grants

The Spastic Paraplegia Foundation (SPF) of the USA

recently announced that it awarded $333,561 in research grants to three outstanding scientists to help find the cures for Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS) and Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP).  The SPF’s Scientific Advisory Board rated their proposals as outstanding opportunities to advance research and help find the cures for PLS & HSP.

The grant recipients for 2007, and the titles of their proposals, are as follows:

Bruce Horazdovsky, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine,

and senior consultant to the department of biochemistry and molecular biology and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center (Rochester, MN) was awarded $58,000 for his project entitled “Development of a cell culture system to analyze defects associated with Primary Lateral Sclerosis”.

Dr. Horazdovsky has helped to uncover the function of the Alsin protein.  The Alsin protein, when defective, causes juvenile onset PLS.  His work on other similar proteins has been published in numerous scientific journals.

Peter W. Baas, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy,

in the College of Medicine, at Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) was awarded $140,000 ($70,00 a year for two years) for his project entitled "Mechanistic Basis of SPG4-based Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia”.

Dr. Baas has devoted his twenty-one year career in molecular neurobiology to the study of the role of and transport of microtubules in the axons of neurons.  He is one of the world’s leading scientists in that field.  He has made major discoveries about the role of a microtubule-severing protein called Katanin.  (Spastin, a protein that causes the most common form of HSP when defective, is also a microtubule severing protein).  He has published eighty-five articles in scientific journals.

Stephan Zuchner, M.D., the director of the Center for Human Molecular Genetics

at the Miami Institute for Human Genetics in the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine (Miami, FL) was awarded $135,561 ($67,148 the first year, and $68,413 the second year) for his project entitled “Molecular and genetic analysis of the SPG31 gene REEP1”.

Dr. Zuchner was the lead author of the paper announcing the discovery of the REEP1 gene – the third most common HSP-related gene.  He has published 29 articles in major scientific journals.