SIU Med School Professor Receives National Grant to Study Rare Pediatric Disease

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January 31, 2013

SIU Med School Professor Receives National Grant to Study Rare Pediatric Disease

An internationally recognized physician-scientist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield has been awarded a laboratory research grant from Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to study pediatric opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome (OMS), a rare disease in children. The total budget of the grant is $205,081.

OMS renders a previously normal child unable to talk, sit, walk, or sleep, causing uncontrollable shaking and eye movements. The disease is triggered by a childhood body-cavity tumor called neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumor of childhood. The immune system, in attacking the tumor, injures the brain, which shares similar proteins. Understanding how the “friendly fire” injury occurs is essential to stopping it.  

Dr. Michael Pranzatelli, SIU professor of neurology and director of the National Pediatric Myoclonus Center, is the principal investigator for the project, which will study spinal fluid and blood samples of pediatric patients to look at key inflammatory proteins. The research will attempt to determine the role of chemokine inflammatory mediators and their receptors on lymphocytes in the brain inflammation that characterizes OMS. Results of this research could lead to new disease and treatment biomarkers, and the development of a more effective treatment for the disease. Pranzatelli, not the funding company, designed and controls the study.

Pranzatelli’s research on pediatric myoclonus has received national funding for more than twenty years, which now totals more than $4 million. He founded the National Pediatric Myoclonus Center, now based at SIU, which is the largest OMS research center in the world, receiving national and international patients. Pranzatelli has authored 161 publications in the medical and scientific literature. He joined the SIU faculty in 1999.

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