BMRI Receives New Research Grants from JDRF and Eisenberg Ahsen Foundation

Published May 26, 2014

The Burke Medical Research Institute is pleased to announce new grants from JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and the Eisenberg Ahsen Foundation that will further our world-class translational neuroscience research.

JDRF has awarded a one-year, $109,966 grant to Botir Sagdullaev, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory for Cellular Vision and Plasticity at BMRI, to support research on the underlying causes of diabetic retinopathy.  Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of diabetes that induces visual impairment and is a leading cause of blindness; half of children with Type 1 diabetes develop DR within 10 years.  Recent research suggests that DR is a neurovascular disease that disrupts the normal interactions between neurons, glia, and vascular cells in the retina.  With this new grant, Dr. Sagdullaev’s lab plans to study these neurovascular interactions.  In particular, they will investigate how cholinergic and dopaminergic neuronal inputs are involved in blood flow regulation in the retina.

BMRI has also received a $490,344 grant from the Eisenberg Ahsen Foundation to conduct studies on autism spectrum disorders.  The projects will focus on both the cause and treatment of autism, a condition that affects nearly one million children in the United States.  One project, directed by Mary Donohoe, Ph.D., will focus on molecular regulators of genes implicated in autism and investigate their role by disrupting these regulators in the mouse brain.  Another project, headed by Jason Carmel, M.D., Ph.D., will look at the abnormal brain connections in a mouse model of autism.  Specifically, novel molecular techniques will be used to study whether blocking abnormal connections between the two hemispheres of the brain can curb autistic behaviors.  A third project, directed by Disha Gupta, Ph.D., will seek to improve listening skills in children with autism by helping them focus attention on spoken words while suppressing background noise.  This innovative training program will combine a computer game with sophisticated EEG that can track shifts in attention. 

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