April 9, 1999

Eight VUMC investigators land grants from March of Dimes

Eight VUMC investigators land grants from March of Dimes

Eight Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigators were recently named March of Dimes National Research Grant recipients.

Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes is a national nonprofit health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. A cornerstone of this mission is funding grants that support scientific research.

The Vanderbilt scientists, as well as other local grant recipients, were honored by the Music City Division of the March of Dimes at a recent luncheon.

March of Dimes-sponsored research has produced numerous successes, including the polio vaccine, the blood test for phenylketonuria (an inherited cause of mental retardation), and the specialized care and equipment of neonatal intensive care units.

Derek Young, March of Dimes Music City Division Board Chairman, praised the Vanderbilt researchers.

"Where would we be without research? I applaud what you're doing," Young said.

1999 National Research Grant awardees include:

o Joey V. Barnett, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, to explore the role of the cell surface Type III TGF-beta receptor in heart formation;

o Chin Chiang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Cell Biology, to study how the molecule sonic hedgehog contributes to the birth defect syndrome called holoprosencephaly;

o Dr. James E. Crowe, assistant professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology, to learn why newborns have poor immune response to viral vaccines and viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus;

o Chand Desai, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmacology and Cell Biology, to study receptor tyrosine phosphatase function in embryonic and larval development;

o Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, Ph.D., assistant professor of Molecular Biology, to study how the gene boz participates in determining the normal top-to-bottom and front-to-back patterns of embryonic central nervous system formation;

o James S. Sutcliffe, Ph.D., assistant professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, to study the gene whose mutation causes Angelman syndrome (mental retardation, absent speech, seizures);

o Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Pharmacology, to study a gene mutation that makes brain cells abnormally excitable and thereby causes epilepsy;

o David W. Threadgill, Ph.D., assistant professor of Cell Biology and Medicine, to study certain gene mutations that affect placental development and fetal growth.

Fundraising efforts by March of Dimes chapters support both local and national grant programs. Nearly half of the funds come from WalkAmerica, the nation's largest walking event.

The Music City Division awards grants to a wide range of Middle Tennessee organizations for programs of education, advocacy, and community services to help babies. In addition, part of the money raised locally is sent to the national level to fund research grants.

"We are fortunate that eight of these prestigious grants went to researchers here at Vanderbilt," said Corinne Perry, a member of the Music City Division Board.

To find out more about the March of Dimes and about the local WalkAmerica, which is set for Sunday, April 25 at Centennial Park, contact the Music City Division at 399-3200.