Principal Investigator: Vikram Shakkottai, MD, PhD
Location: UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA
Year Founded: 2010
What is your research about?
Our work focuses on ion channels, which are small pathways in cells that let ions through them. This movement of ions creates an electric signal, which allows neurons to communicate with each other.
We have discovered that prior to death, neurons get dysfunction due to ion channels not working properly or there aren’t enough ion channels in cells. Ataxia symptoms like poor balance and loss of neurons are connected with neuronal dysfunction that results from what is going wrong with ion channels. Our long-term goal is to find ways to target the faulty ion channels. If we can create drugs to fix the ion channel problems, this could help treat ataxia.
Picture of the Shakkottai lab taken in May 2022. Left to right: Min Fu, Haoran Huang, Miranda Dunn, Logan Morrison, and Vikram Shakkottai
Why do you do this research?
We know from studies of other neurodegenerative disorders that treating the dysfunction in neurons can lead to improvement in symptoms.
Work from several research groups suggests that in ataxia, first ion channels stop working properly making neurons stop functioning correctly, and that starts a chain of events eventually leading to ataxia symptoms.
We want to understand how ion channels not working properly lead to neurons being lost or not working. This is the first step in the chain of events that go wrong in ataxia. If we can fix what is wrong with ion channels, this could stop this series of events that lead to ataxia from happening in the first place.
Written by: Dr. Vikram Shakkottai
Edited by: Celeste Suart