Baylor College scientist wins Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize

May 20, 2008 — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has named Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi as the recipient of the 8th annual Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize.

Baylor College scientist wins Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize
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Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi. Photograph courtesy of Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Zoghbi is a professor in the departments of pediatrics, molecular and human genetics and neurology and neuroscience at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Zoghbi also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Perl prize carries a $10,000 award and is given to recognize a seminal achievement in neuroscience. Past recipients have included four subsequent winners of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Dr. Edward R. Perl is Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Cell and Molecular Physiology at UNC School of Medicine.

Perl’s work in pain mechanisms has been highly influential. Thirty years ago, he was the first to prove that a particular class of nerve cells (now called nociceptors) responds exclusively to stimuli that are perceived as painful. These cells are now targets of intensive efforts to find drugs that block their function.

This year’s Perl Prize is being awarded to Dr. Zoghbi for her research on the molecular genetics of neurological disorders, especially her 1999 discovery of the gene responsible for Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome is a progressive neurodevelopmental disorder that results in devastating motor deterioration that affects one in every 10,000 females. In 1999, Zoghbi’s group found the Rett syndrome gene, MECP2. Dr. Zoghbi’s current efforts in Rett syndrome are focused on identifying potential points of intervention that can be pharmacologically manipulated in Rett syndrome mice.

“Dr. Zoghbi’s discovery has opened the way to developing therapies for this devastating neurodevelopmental disorder and has provided a new window into how human brain development is orchestrated,” said Dr. William D. Snider, head of the selection committee for the prize, professor of neurology and cell and molecular physiology, and director of the UNC Neuroscience Research Center.

School of Medicine Dean Dr. William L. Roper will present the award at 4 p.m. on May 27 in G202 of UNC’s Medical Biomolecular Research Building.

Dr. Zoghbi will deliver the Perl Prize lecture immediately following the presentation.

Note: Snider can help arrange interviews with Dr. Zoghbi. He can be contacted at (919) 843-8623 or william_snider@med.unc.edu.

School of Medicine contact: Les Lang, (919) 843-9687, llang@med.unc.edu
News Services contact: Patric Lane, (919) 962-8596, patric_lane@unc.edu

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