Greenwood Genetic Center has received a $1.8 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to help the center collaborate with the University of Georgia and the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
Researchers, led by UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, will analyze possible causes of Alzheimer’s disease, autism and other intellectual disabilities. The information may “open the door to new therapies,” according to a press release sent Monday.
“The grant is for three years,” Dr. Charles Schwartz, PhD, the genetic center’s director of research and co-investigator for the project, told the Index-Journal on Monday afternoon. “We are providing material for patients as one of the clinical arms,”
Both the Genetic Center and the clinic in Strasburg are “clinical arms since UGA doesn’t the facilities that they do,” Schwartz said.
“We know very little about what’s happening on the surface of cells in people with neurological disorders,” Michael Tiemeyer, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UGA and the principal investigator for the project, said in the release.
Schwartz discussed glycosylation as the process of adding sugars or carbohydrates to proteins.
“The glyco-proteins play an important role in cells and cell membranes,” he said, adding there could be a defect in the construction or addition of sugar chains to the protein. “If the glyco-proteins don’t function properly, the cells won’t.”
Tiemeyer said figuring out those distinctions is what drives the research.
“Identification of such individuals (with these disorders) may allow for therapy of their disability, through either new or existing drugs,” he said in the release.
“This really is pioneering work. We’re not exactly sure what we will discover, but we are taking some of the first important steps and the potential impact is tremendous.”