About Our Research

About Our Research

The Beginning of Ataxia Research

Ataxia research at NAF began with Dr. John W. Schut, the founder of NAF. He was a brilliant physician and researcher whose determination to find the cause and cure for Ataxia led to the formation of the Foundation in 1957. Dr. Schut lost family members to the disease, fueling his desire to find answers. At the time, he did not know that he had inherited the Ataxia-causing gene. The progressively debilitating symptoms of Spinocerebellar Ataxia eventually prevented him from continuing his research.

Dr. John W. Schut’s dream to find a cure lived on, however, as NAF continued to raise money to fund Ataxia research. Dr. John W. Schut’s nephew, Dr. Larry Schut, joined NAF’s Board of Directors to help guide the Foundation in pursuing his uncle’s vision. In 1993, Harry T. Orr, PhD, a researcher working with NAF, placed an emotional call to the younger Dr. Schut, reporting, “Larry, we found the gene!” Dr. Orr, now director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Translational Neuroscience and Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology in the University’s School of Medicine, in collaboration with Dr. Huda Zoghbi of Baylor University, had identified the first genetic defect known to cause a type of Ataxia.

Ataxia Research Today

Now, 60 years later, NAF is still leading the fight to end Ataxia. We are a driving force behind research that leads to breakthroughs for treatments that aim to stop the disease progression, restore function, and end Ataxia forever. We have been, and will continue to be, relentless in achieving  Dr. Schut’s dream – finding a cure for Ataxia.

We continue to fund the best Ataxia research, both in the U.S. and internationally. This commitment has resulted in important progress that has contributed to an understanding of the disease mechanism, gene identification, development of rating scales, and translational research. Our global research efforts have increased the number of scientists working on Ataxia, advancing new discoveries and treatments around the world. The National Ataxia Foundation will continue to be on the forefront of the fight to prevent, treat, and cure Ataxia. You can join us in the fight by donating to research now.