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TSRI Scientists Awarded $3.4 Million to Investigate the Secret Lives of Brain Cells

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been awarded a five-year grant of nearly $3.4 million from the National Institute of Mental Health to study how genomic changes in neurons might contribute to neurological and psychiatric diseases.

The project will be led by TSRI Associate Professor Kristin Baldwin, member of the Dorris Neuroscience Center at TSRI, and will involve a collaboration with the TSRI Mouse Genetics Core, led by Sergey Kupriyanov.

Neuronal genomes have long been a mystery to researchers. While most other cells in the body divide, allowing them to copy and potentially repair their DNA, neurons have to maintain their genomes without the usual divide-and-repair process. “Little is known about how non-dividing cells maintain their genome or whether non-dividing cells may harbor DNA changes that differ from those in other cells,” said Baldwin.

The new grant, which is based on preliminary data generated by the Baldwin lab and the TSRI Mouse Genetics Core, allows researchers to study whether mutations in neuronal DNA could cause brain cell death during aging or contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and autism.

The new hunt for mutations includes plans to clone neuronal cells and perform whole genome sequencing. Baldwin said the study could also have relevance for researchers studying slow-dividing stem cells in certain cancers and the immune system.

The number of the new National Institutes of Health grant is 1R01MH102698.





Send comments to: press[at]scripps.edu



baldwin
Associate Professor Kristin Baldwin and her laboratory will collaborate with the TSRI Mouse Genetics Core, led by Sergey Kupriyanov, on the new project. (Photo by Biomedical Graphics.)