Lawrence Reiter Receives Grant to Further Autism Research

|

Lawrence Reiter, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Neurology, Pediatrics, and Anatomy and Neurobiology, has received a grant totaling $412,344 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Lawrence T. Reiter, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Neurology, Pediatrics, and Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $412,344 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The award will fund a study on advancing research into autism and other neurological diseases. The study titled, “Tooth Pulp as a Source for Neuronal Precursor Cells to Study Neurogenetic Disorders,” will be conducted over a two-year period.

The primary goal of Dr. Reiter’s research is to develop a method to investigate the neurons of patients with neurogenetic disease (i.e., autism) that uses shed teeth (primary teeth or pulled teeth). In collaboration with Martin Donaldson, DDS, associate professor of Pediatric Dentistry and Community Oral Health, and director of Postgraduate Pediatric Dentistry, and Reese Scroggs, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, this project represents the first time anyone has considered using tooth pulp as a source for neuronal biospecimens from patients with genetic disease. If Dr. Reiter and his research team are able to determine that the dental pulp in teeth provides the correct type of cells to make neurons in culture, it will provide a new resource to look at gene expression and physiology in patient-derived neurons.

“We will be able to take normally discarded teeth and generate a valuable resource for the study of these neurogenetic syndromes,” said Dr. Reiter of what he hopes to accomplish. “This methodology could be applied to any number of disorders that affect the nervous system.”

This research could lead to new insights into the mechanisms of human neurogenetic disease and even normal neuronal development and function. It could also lead to the designing of new approaches to therapy.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.