WGBH: UMMS Down syndrome discovery showcases importance of federal research investment

Dean Flotte says cutbacks hamper innovation

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

July 24, 2013

Higher education advocates say UMass Medical School's breakthrough discovery on silencing the extra chromosome in Down syndrome is a strong example of why federal research dollars are so essential to science, according to a story on WGBH Radio.

School of Medicine Dean Terence R. Flotte told reporter Kirk Carapezza that 85 percent of UMMS research funding comes from the federal government. Dr. Flotte, who is the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor in Medicineand professor of pediatrics and microbiology & physiological systems, said deep cuts will hamper academic research and dramatically decrease the number of new scientists.

“You can’t just repopulate a biomedical science research community overnight,” Flotte said on WGBH. “People are driven out of research, and the people with those talents go into other fields and they don’t come back.

Led by Jeanne Lawrence, PhD, interim chair and professor of cell & developmental biology, UMMS scientists were the first to establish that a naturally occurring X chromosome “off switch” can be rerouted to neutralize the extra chromosome responsible for trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome. The discovery, published inNature, provides the first evidence that the underlying genetic defect responsible for Down syndrome can be suppressed in cell cultures.

Listen the full WGBH story here.

Related links on UMassMedNow:
UMMS scientists silence extra chromosome in Down syndrome cells
Breakthrough garners worldwide coverage