(Sioux Falls, SD) – A grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will provide Sanford Research’s Jill Weimer, PhD, with $1.75 million over five years to study intracellular trafficking in neurological disorders such as the rare pediatric Batten disease.
Weimer’s study, “Novel mechanisms for distal transport in developing and mature neurons,” was selected by the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for funding.
Neuronal processes known as axons and dendrites in the brain serve to pass information between cells. Because these processes are often several centimeters in length, neurons, unlike any other cells in the body, require unique ways to sort and transport proteins and essential cargo over long distances. When neurons lose the ability to properly sort and move these proteins, the connections break down, leading to neurodegeneration. This loss in synaptic connection is often one of the earliest changes in the brains of patients with neurodegenerative diseases like Batten disease. Weimer and her team will explore how a certain protein complex might keep cells alive by allowing continued transportation of cellular cargo.
“The transportation of cargo within axons and dendrites is essential to maintaining synaptic connections and keeping them alive,” said Weimer. “We believe the protein complex we are studying in our lab--which contains CRMP2, KLC4 and CLN6 proteins--is essential for neuronal survival. Without it, the cells in our brain aren’t able to get the needed supplies to the end of their processes, synapses disappear and the processes degenerate. Imagine you were trying to ship corn from South Dakota to Pennsylvania on a train and someone removed the wheels and engine; this protein complex serves a similar function for transport in neurons.”
Dr. Weimer is an associate scientist in the Children’s Health Research Center at Sanford Research. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina and has worked at Sanford Research since 2009.
“The exploration of diseases that afflict children continues to be a point of emphasis for us,” said David Pearce, PhD, vice president and chief operating officer of Sanford Research. “The effects of Denny Sanford’s gifts are undoubtedly impacting the quality of research we are able to undertake locally with support from national agencies like the NIH.”
The NIH, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Policy, is the nation’s medical research agency.
About Sanford Research
Sanford Research is a non-profit research organization and is part of Sanford Health, an integrated health system headquartered in Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls, SD. Sanford represents the largest, rural, not-for-profit health care system in the nation with a presence in 111 communities, nine states and two countries. In 2007, a transformational gift of $400 million by Denny Sanford provided for an expansion of children’s and research initiatives, one of which was to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and has given Sanford Research significant momentum in its goal of becoming one of the premiere research institutions in the United States and the world. Most recently, subsequent gifts of more than $200 million by Mr. Sanford have paved the way to establish Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Research and Sanford Imagenetics.
With a team of more than 200 researchers, Sanford Research comprises several research centers, including Children’s Health Research, Edith Sanford Breast Cancer, Cancer Biology, Center for Health Outcomes and Prevention, Sanford Applied Biosciences, and the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance (NIAHP).