UT Dallas Biologist Awarded $1.6 Million NIH Grant

Funded Research Examines Role of ‘Cell-Suicide’ in
Neurodegenerative Diseases Such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

Feb. 26, 2007

Santosh D’Mello, a professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Department at The University of Texas at Dallas, has been awarded a five-year, $1.63 million research grant from the Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The grant will fund research aimed at understanding how members of a family of proteins called histone deacetylases enhance survival of neurons within the brain.   The work holds the promise of improved treatment for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, among others.

D’Mello’s laboratory at UT Dallas has been studying how a process called apoptosis is regulated in the brain.  Apoptosis is a “cell-suicide” program that is normally activated to rid the body of unwanted cells, or cells that are damaged, dysfunctional or infected with pathogens.  In the developing brain, apoptosis plays a critical role in eliminating superfluous neurons or neurons that have made inappropriate connections. 

Recent studies have revealed that apoptosis is sometimes activated aberrantly in the adult or aging brain and that such an inappropriate activation of the cell-suicide process underlies the abnormal loss of brain cells in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as conditions such as ischemic stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. 

“It is my hope that the studies done in my laboratory will lead to a better understanding of how apoptotis is controlled in the normally developing brain, as well as what goes wrong with the control of this process in neurodegenerative diseases,” D’Mello said. “A better understanding of this process will ultimately lead to the development of strategies to treat or cure neurodegenerative diseases.”

This is the fourth major federal grant awarded to D’Mello since he joined UT Dallas a little more than eight years ago.  The other three were from the Department of Defense in 1999 ($935,000), the NIH in 2002 ($1.03 million), and the NIH again in 2004 ($1.55 million).

About UT Dallas

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than 14,500 students.  The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores.  The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.  For additional information about UT Dallas, please visit the university’s website at www.utdallas.edu.


Contact Steve McGregor, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2293, smcgreg@utdallas.edu

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Dr. Santosh D'Mello

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