Teaming Up to Tackle Birth Defects

From left: Paul A. Trainor, Stowers Institute for Medical Research; Jeff Gorski, UMKC School of Dentistry; Jeffrey Price, UMKC School of Biological Sciences. Photo by Jim Thomas, School of Dentistry

UMKC and Stowers Institute researchers win grant

A team of University of Missouri-Kansas City and Stowers Institute for Medical Research investigators are beginning new research on birth defects causing paralysis. The Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute awarded their work a grant.

Jeff Gorski of the School of Dentistry is leading the investigation on a team that includes Jeffrey Price of the School of Biological Sciences and Paul A. Trainor of the Stowers Institute.

The most common cause for spinal birth defects, occurring at a relatively high incidence of 1 in 1,000 births, are conditions experienced during pregnancy such as diabetes, lack of oxygen, alcohol consumption or vitamin A excess.

What causes the underlying conditions leading to spinal defects is unknown. Mouse models are commonly used to study underlying causes of birth defects.

The deletion of a gene, Mbtps1, results in hind-limb paralysis in mice; a similar process occurs in babies born with certain spinal defects.

“The goals of our research are to develop methods to monitor the effect of exposure to hypoxic or hyperglycemic conditions in utero and to ultimately prevent these types of spinal birth defects,” said Gorski, professor in the UMKC Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences.

This team was one of three that received one of KCALSI’s 2016 Paul Patton Trust, Ted C. McCarter, Williams Evans Jr., Bank of America Trustees Grants. Each was awarded $50,000.

“These grants fund research focused on genetic diseases that primarily affect children and may lead to life-changing discoveries and treatments,” said Wayne Carter, president and chief executive officer of KCALSI. “Historically, for every dollar invested in these grants, over $8.50 has been returned to the community and researchers in future grant dollars because these grants allow the recipients to successfully compete for much larger federally funded grants that can provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for follow-on research.”

KCALSI has managed the scientific review of the grant proposals since 2007, identifying research programs with the greatest scientific relevance and potential impact.

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