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July 22, 2009

Genetic research at ULM gets $210,000 boost from national organization

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development recently awarded $210,000 to fund genetic research in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

ULM Assistant Professor Chris Gissendanner said the award provides research funding for a three-year period that would help increase scientific understanding of the NR4A gene family, a type of nuclear receptor that plays a key role in embryonic development and healthy physiological growth in adults.

Gissendanner explained that NR4As appear to be of critical importance in balancing multiple cellular processes including division, differentiation, survival, and quiescence.

The gene has been linked to cancer, degeneration, and atherosclerosis in adults, he said.

“All of those processes involve abnormal conditions where cellular decisions are not regulated properly or are excessive cellular responses to physiological insults,” said Gissendanner.

However, Gissendanner said he was especially interested in discovering more about the role of NR4A during normal development and its impact on the formation of organs and organ systems. He said that by understanding the normal function of a gene, it becomes easier to understand how that gene might be responsible for a disease condition.

“Given the importance of NR4A in normal development and disease, the primary objective of this study is to uncover how the gene functions during cell growth and change, within context of a particular organisms’ development,” he said.

Project funding comes from the Institute of Child Health & Human Development, which was created at the request of President John F. Kennedy to support research into human development throughout the entire life process.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) said he was proud of the decision to provide the research funding to ULM.

“The genetic research being performed at ULM is vital to the scientific community,” Alexander said. “I commend ULM for taking on such a progressive project, and I am excited to know the funding they need to launch this important initiative will be in their hands soon.”

“This project demonstrates the high caliber of our faculty and groundbreaking research they conduct every day,” said ULM President James Cofer. “The university is especially grateful to Congressman Alexander, Sen. Mary Landrieu, and all our Louisiana delegates, for their continued support of such valuable work.”

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