ChangHui Pak and Gerry Downes awarded the Armstrong Fund for Science

The Armstrong Fund for Science was established in 2006 by benefactors John and Elizabeth Armstrong to help research projects gain more ground before they are eligible for traditional grants. The 2021 award was given to Biology’s Gerald Downes, and MCB’s ChangHui Pak for their collaborative research into the disruption of brain development by the mutation of a gene, TBCK. Mutations of the gene cause a rare condition called TBCK Syndrome. Professors Pak and Downes will receive funding of $40,000 for 2 years for the preliminary research needed to prepare for a larger research project.

ChangHui and Gerry hope to learn more about how the mutations in the TBCK gene cause the debilitating syndrome which leads to a high rate of mortality in children and adolescents with progressive loss of muscle tone, intellectual disability, and drug-resistant epilepsy among some of the symptoms. The collaboration will involve the zebrafish that the Downes Lab has already engineered with TBCK syndrome. Pak will be using pluripotent stem cells that will be engineered with the mutations specific to TBCK syndrome, grow them into neurons and compare the mutated cells with healthy cells. They are both excited to work together learning from each model.

The entire neuroscience community extends an enthusiastic congratulations and will look forward to seeing the progress!