Laurel Cooper is 8 years old and full of sass and spunk. She finds it hilarious when her older sister, Annalise, gets into trouble. She loves music, and being in the thick of things. Cooper also has Rett syndrome, a rare, non-inherited neurological disorder that mostly affects girls and causes severe deterioration in their ability to speak, eat, move and even breathe easily. Rett syndrome has no cure.
After more than a decade of work, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Waisman Center reported promising results in the lab and in animal models that could set the stage for developing a treatment for Alexander disease, a rare and usually fatal neurological disease with no known cure.
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Iyama-Kurtycz’s journey from an 8-year-old with a dream to a skilled clinician took her to medical school at the University of Michigan and a residency at the University of Kansas. “While at Kansas, I met a pediatrician who was taking care of children with disabilities and I realized that’s what I wanted to do,” says Iyama-Kurtycz.
“Dr. Messing has been an outstanding director of this center since his appointment in 2015. He is both a superb scientist and has been a strong leader across this center’s multifaceted mission,” says Norman Drinkwater, UW–Madison associate vice chancellor for research in biological sciences.
Adults who lived high-stress childhoods have trouble reading the signs that a loss or punishment is looming, leaving themselves in situations that risk avoidable health and financial problems and legal trouble.
“We think this video game-based training could be a unique way to help individuals with ASD who have challenges with their balance address these issues,” says Travers, an investigator at UW–Madison’s Waisman Center and an assistant professor of kinesiology.
A decade after scientists announced the development of induced pluripotent stem cells, Waisman investigators, including Su-Chun Zhang and David Gamm, continue to use these cells to research and develop potential therapies for several disorders and conditions, such as ALS, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and macular degeneration.
How did you get into your field of research? After I learned that the inner ear can produce sounds on its own and that the brain controls what we hear, I was hooked!
“We found that the folks with cerebellar damage responded to these unpredictable changes to a larger extent than those without any damage,” says Parrell. “It was totally unexpected.”