Albany Medical College, UAlbany Scientists Team to Study Neurodegenerative Diseases, With Support from $2.9M NIH Grant

Dr. Damian Shin

Scientists at Albany Medical College and UAlbany’s RNA Institute have been awarded a grant totaling more than $2.9 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study and develop new drugs to treat spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs), a group of rare neurological disorders caused by mutations in specific genes that affect functions such as balance and coordination.

Co-principal investigator Damian Shin, PhD, interim chair and associate professor of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, will lead the team at Albany Medical College.

He is collaborating with co-principal investigators Andy Berglund, PhD, director of the RNA Institute and professor of biological studies at UAlbany, and Hannah Shorrock, PhD, a research scientist at the RNA Institute.

The UAlbany scientists will screen FDA-approved drugs to assess their ability to reduce harmful proteins in cells affected by SCAs. Then, using transgenic animal models, Dr. Shin and his team will test the candidates for improvement in behavior and neural function.

Noting that this project continues an already successful multi-institutional collaboration, Dr. Shin added, "We hope to provide critical proof of concept data that these small molecules can serve as a novel class of therapeutic drugs for spinocerebellar ataxias."

Titled "Alternative Splicing and Development of Small Molecule Therapeutics in CAG Expansion Spinocerebellar Ataxias," the five-year study is funded by the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.