Iowa Neuroscience Institute Awards Accelerator Grants

In support of its goal to build high-impact neuroscience research, the Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI) has awarded its first Accelerator Grants. The four funded proposals represent a mix of foundational, translational, and clinical research. They focus on neuroscience topics that are new or that add value to existing research by branching in a new direction.

“The INI Accelerator Grants represent an opportunity to identify creative research focused on important questions in neuroscience,” said Ted Abel, PhD, INI director. “This type of innovation aligns with the creative atmosphere at the University of Iowa and the research programs we are building in the INI.”

The following projects, selected from among 45 applications, each received $75,000 for one year:


Aaron Boes, MD, PhDAaron Boes, MD, PhD (Pediatric Neurology & Psychiatry): Predicting stroke outcomes from lesion location

Boes and his team will develop a tool that uses information about the location of a stroke to generate a personalized quantitative prediction of neuropsychological deficits and prognosis for long-term recovery. Using the University of Iowa’s comprehensive registry of brain lesions, Boes and co-investigator Dan Tranel (Neurology) will create one of the largest and most comprehensive lesion symptom “maps” of which brain regions are most highly associated with individual stroke symptoms, such as difficulty speaking or problems with attention, and then measure the degree to which these maps can predict deficits in individuals with stroke. The results may lead to a useful clinical tool for the treatment of patients with stroke and other focal brain lesions.



Ryan Boudreau, PhDRyan Boudreau, PhD (Internal Medicine): Novel microproteins in Parkinson's disease                                                                                                        

Boudreau and his team have identified a novel microprotein that they believe may protect against the neurological degeneration associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Recent studies have demonstrated that microproteins can serve vital cellular functions, including modulation of ion channels, metabolism, and RNA regulation. However, researchers have not yet related this to specific diseases. This study extends the lab’s work on the role of this microprotein in mitochondria (i.e. the cell's energy production factories), which are known to play a critical role in PD pathogenesis.



Laura Ponto, PhDLaura Ponto, PhD (Radiology): Comparison of cerebral blood flow measured by arterial spin labeling MRI and quantitative [15O]Water PET

Ponto and her team will examine the correspondence between arterial spin labeling, an emerging MRI-based technique to measure cerebral blood flow, and the “gold standard” technique, [15O]Water positron emission tomography imaging. The goal is to understand the strengths and limitations of the new MRI-based method. Measurements of cerebral blood flow are important to our understanding of normal and pathological brain function. 




Josh Weiner, PhDJoshua Weiner, PhD (Biology & Psychiatry): Elucidating novel molecular mechanisms of neuronal and glial differentiation: roles of the essential nuclear protein Akirin2

Weiner and his team are working to identify molecular mechanisms through which Akirin2, a poorly understood nuclear protein, controls the formation and maturation of neurons and glia in the developing cortex and cerebellum. The Weiner lab will perform high-throughput transcriptomic analyses to identify the neuronal and glial genes whose expression is controlled by Akirin2. Disrupted formation of the cortex and cerebellum are associated with a wide variety of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect hundreds of thousands of children. Future therapeutic approaches for many neurodevelopmental disorders will rely on identifying such fundamental molecular mechanisms through which proper gene expression patterns, critical for neurodevelopment, are coordinated.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017