June 25, 2008

Salk Institute partners with the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research to study extreme obesity-related genetic disorder

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Salk News


Salk Institute partners with the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research to study extreme obesity-related genetic disorder

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La Jolla, CA – The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (FPWR) today announced a partnership that will forge new research to study a rare genetic disorder that thwarts appetite regulation and leads to extreme obesity.

FPWR’s initial $50,000 grant will fund a collaborative effort between three Salk Institute laboratories to study Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), a disorder that occurs in approximately one out of every 15,000 births regardless of gender or race. Individuals with PWS lack the normal hunger and satiety cues, and constantly crave food. Without continual supervision, those with Prader-Willi eat excessively and risk becoming extremely obese. Scientists believe it is caused by the loss of active genetic material on chromosome 15. The research performed by the Salk investigators will focus on understanding why appetite is not properly regulated in PWS.

Dr. Wylie Vale, a professor and head of the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology who will lead the study, is an authority on brain hormones regulating stress, growth and appetite. His field of expertise is complemented by collaboration with Salk researchers Dr. Paul Sawchenko, head of the Laboratory of Neuronal Structure and Function, who studies cells in the brain responsible for essential bodily functions such as eating and drinking; and Dr. Marc Montminy, also a professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology and an expert in the molecular regulation of energy balance and metabolism.

“We are hopeful that research on an animal model of this genetic disorder will lead to a better understanding and means of controlling appetite in patients with Prader-Willi syndrome,” said Vale. “We also hope the studies will reveal lessons for unraveling the complex roles of neuropeptides in regulating body weight in the general population.”
Dr. Theresa Strong, chair of the FPWR Scientific Advisory Board said: “This highly accomplished group of investigators brings years of experience in appetite regulation and metabolism, neuroanatomy and pharmacology. We are thrilled to have them applying their expertise to understanding Prader-Willi syndrome.”

About the FPWR:

The Foundation for Prader-Willi Research is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate the challenges of Prader-Willi syndrome through the advancement of research.

About the Salk Institute:

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

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