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06-15-2007

Clarkson University Biology Professor Receives $238,500 Grant From National Institutes of Health to Study Neurons Related to Digestive Diseases

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/wallacek.jpg]

The grant supports biological research, which will be performed primarily by Clarkson undergraduate students, and administered over the next three years, allowing for the training of Clarkson University Biology Professor Receives $238,500 Grant From National Institutes of Health to Study Neurons Related to Digestive Diseasesnumerous undergraduates. While undergraduates receive excellent training in laboratory classes, taking on projects in active research labs allows students to gain a much deeper understanding of the material and also allows students to determine whether they would be interested in a career in the field.

In announcing the grant, McHugh said, "Clarkson University has a strong tradition of academic excellence and these funds will be put to good use to fight digestive diseases."

The grant will fund research in Wallace's laboratory investigating the development of neurons that specifically populate the digestive system. These neurons are responsible for initiating and maintaining movement of food and waste through the digestive tract. Without these neurons, the rest of the digestive system can be completely normal but nothing will pass through the tract.

This is an important field of study because a host of digestive diseases can develop as a result of abnormalities in digestive neurons. Many of these digestive diseases are due to mutations in genes involved in development of the neurons. The most common and best characterized of these genetic diseases is Hirschsprung's disease in which a portion of the intestine is rendered immobile due to lack of neurons.

Wallace received a bachelor of science degree in molecular genetics from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Ohio State University. He completed his postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania. His teaching interests include developmental biology, comparative vertebrate anatomy, and introductory biology. Wallace's research interests include development of the enteric nervous system (neurons innervating the digestive system).

Currently, Wallace is funded by a National Institutes of Health grant to define the roles of genes involved in development of enteric neurons. His research has been published in prestigious journals such as Developmental Biology and Developmental Cell. He also chairs the animal welfare committee at Clarkson University and organizes the seminar series for the Biology Department.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people's health and save lives, NIH scientists investigate ways to prevent disease as well as the causes, treatments and even cures for common and rare diseases.

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is a private, nationally ranked university with a reputation for developing innovative leaders in engineering, business, the sciences, health sciences and the humanities. At Clarkson, 3,000 high-ability students excel in an environment where learning is not only positive, friendly and supportive but spans the boundaries of traditional disciplines and knowledge. Faculty achieves international recognition for their research and scholarship and connects students to their leadership potential in the marketplace through dynamic, real-world problem solving.

Find out more about the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases at http://www2.niddk.nih.gov .

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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