Dr. Hsiao-Tuan Chao, MD PhD, medical resident of pediatric
Dr. Laurie Robak, clinical instructor at the Baylor College of
Medicine and researchers at the Jan and Dan Duncan
Neurological Research Institute (NRI) at Texas Children's
Hospital were selected to receive prestigious scholarship grants
from the American Academy of Neurology to support studies on
neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.
American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest
association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with
32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest
quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor
with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing
disorders of the brain and nervous system such as autism spectrum
disorder, intellectual disability, Alzheimer's disease, stroke,
migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and
This year AAN's research program awarded nearly $3 million
dollars toward neuroscience research and training. This was the
first year AAN awarded a basic or translational
neuroscience-focused research training scholarship. Twenty award
winners, including Drs. Chao and Robak, were recognized at the 69th
Annual Meeting of American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the
world's largest association of neurologists held in Boston from
April 22 to 28, 2017.
Dr. Chao, a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Dr. Hugo
J. Bellen was awarded the 2017 Neurology Research Training
Scholarship by the American Academy of Neurology for her research
proposal titled, "Transcriptional Dysregulation of Neural Circuits
in Neurodevelopmental Disorders."
"Recently, we discovered in
unrelated children with a newly described syndrome the same
mis-spelling in the gene EBF3, a master regulator that
controls the expression of many other genes. These children
have difficulties with learning, are slow to walk, and have poor
balance. They also show some features seen in autism, including
difficulties with speaking and repeated movements. Many different
childhood neurologic diseases share similar features, suggesting
that despite different causes there may be common ways in how brain
function is disrupted. Studying one genetic disease in greater
detail also allows us to learn about other similar diseases and the
basic biology of brain function," said Dr. Chao.
The proposed research will use the laboratory fruit fly and
mouse to explore how changing the function of master regulators of
gene expression, like EBF3, cause childhood neurologic
diseases. The discoveries from this research will provide some
answers and improve the quality of life for many of these children
and their families.
Dr. Robak is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr.
Joshua Shulman. She was awarded the 2017 Clinical Research Training
Fellowship in Parkinson's Disease for her proposal titled,
"Elucidating Genetic Links Between Lysosomal Storage Disorders and
"Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive incurable
neurodegenerative disorder present in one percent of the population over age
65. There are emerging links between lysosomal storage disorders
(LSDs) and complex adult neurodegenerative diseases, including PD.
To further understand the relationship between PD and LSDs, I
propose to blend population and family-based strategies, combining
cutting-edge data in a large PD case/control cohort with a
systematic neurologic evaluation of mutation carriers in pedigrees
affected by LSDs. Identifying LSD genes as PD risk factors will
lead to improved diagnosis and risk assessment as well as
development of novel therapeutic strategies," said Dr. Robak.