Valdez collaboration to search for genetic causes of epilepsy

Gregorio Valdez, Ph.D.

Gregorio Valdez, Ph.D.

Gregorio Valdez, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, has been awarded a grant in collaboration with Judy Shih-Hwa Liu of the Children’s National Medical Center to search for molecular mechanisms that could prevent the initiation or progression of epileptic seizures.

The award is part of a new partnership between the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, the Children’s National Medical Center, and George Washington University to seed seven yearlong projects in hopes they will result in publications and the submission of interinstitutional research grant applications to federal agencies.

The collaboration will seek to identify changes in the genetic expression of mRNA and microRNA in people affected by epilepsies caused by cortical dysplasias and tuberous sclerosis. In addition, the researchers will investigate the role of CLOCK, a key regulator of the pathways responsible for generating circadian rhythms. CLOCK was recently identified by the Liu laboratory as being significantly downregulated in disruptions of neuronal firing.

Both laboratories will contribute to the interpretation and validation of candidate genes, the examination of changes in animals with modifications to candidate genes, and the creation of a neuronal culture system to study potential affects of genetic mutations in isolation.