LGS Foundation Announces 2017 Research Grantees

The Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome Foundation (LGS Foundation) announced today the recipients of their 2017 grant cycle for research in Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Vanesa Nieto-Estevez, PhD, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Aaron Warren, PhD Candidate, from the University of Melbourne in Australia are those selected to receive funding from the LGS Foundation.

Dr. Nieto-Estevez will receive a two-year, $50,000 post-doctoral fellowship that will help to understand how CHD2 gene mutations cause LGS. Mutations in the CHD2 gene are strongly associated with LGS, but our understanding of how this gene functions in the brain is very limited. Dr. Nieto-Estevez will study this gene in human brain organoids (a mini-brain grown in a dish, which is generated using patient-specific cells). This work will help to determine if mini-brains from LGS patients develop differently than mini-brains from healthy children, and will help explain what biological processes are involved in this abnormal development. If successful, this work could lay the foundation for new, more targeted treatments of LGS.

Tracy Dixon-Salazar, PhD, Director of Research and Strategy at the LGS Foundation says, “These projects are important because advancing our scientific understanding of LGS is the only way we will get to meaningful cures for our children. The research being done by Dr. Nieto-Estevez and Aaron Warren is crucial and will help open up new paths of investigation into what is happening in the LGS brain.” ​

Tracy Dixon-Salazar, Director of Research and Strategy

“By studying neurons and organoids derived from gene-edited human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), I will study the causal relationship between CHD2 mutations and the patient phenotype. These studies have the potential to gain novel insight regarding the causes of LGS, which could lead to new therapeutic strategies,” says Dr. Nieto-Estevez.

Aaron Warren will receive a two year, $50,000 post-doctoral fellowship to help predict ahead of time whether deep brain stimulation (DBS) might be effective for controlling seizures in some patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Deep brain stimulation can be effective in Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome but the procedure can be invasive and scary for patients and their caregivers. Aaron Warren’s research project aims to use less invasive tests, such as EEG and functional MRI, to predict whether an LGS patient will benefit from the deep brain stimulation procedure.

“This project seeks to improve the therapeutic delivery of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. We will evaluate whether novel pre-implantation neuroimaging techniques, including functional and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging, can predict successful treatment outcomes following DBS. Results of this project will advance our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, and assist with identifying patients who are most likely to benefit from DBS,” says Mr. Warren.

Tracy Dixon-Salazar, PhD, Director of Research and Strategy at the LGS Foundation says, “These projects are important because advancing our scientific understanding of LGS is the only way we will get to meaningful cures for our children. The research being done by Dr. Nieto-Estevez and Aaron Warren is crucial and will help open up new paths of an investigation into what is happening in the LGS brain.”

Melanie Huntley, PhD, President of the LGS Foundation states, “Patients with LGS have such high unmet medical needs, with broad impacts on their families, communities, and the entire healthcare system. This is why research in LGS, and in particular the LGS Foundation’s research grant program, is so important. We have seen first hand the devastation that an LGS diagnosis can bring. And because of this, we have unique insight into where we can be most impactful with our research dollars and efforts to make a meaningful difference in LGS.”

About the LGS Foundation

The LGS Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals living with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), a rare and catastrophic form of childhood-onset epilepsy, through research, programs, and education. For more information, visit www.lgsfoundation.org.

For press inquiries, please contact Christina SanInocencio, christina@lgsfoundation.org, (718) 374-3800 extension 2.

Source: LGS Foundation