Vol. 16, No. 22 Nov. 6 - Nov.19, 2003


Funding Advances Researchers' Quest for Cure


In late July, Fordham University researchers who have discovered the cause for the neurological disease known as Familial Dysautonomia (FD) received a $50,000 grant from the New York City Council. The grant enabled the purchase of a sequence detection machine, which will be instrumental in the progressive research of the disease. FD affects one in 30 people of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European Jewish, ancestry. "The machine enhances the ability to examine the impact of natural compounds on the cells," explained Berish Rubin, PhD, professor and department chair of Biological Sciences at Fordham in the Bronx.

In 2001, the team of Fordham researchers, including Rubin and Laboratory Director Sylvia Anderson, PhD, discovered the cause of FD on the IKAP gene found on chromosome 9. An older, less advanced, sequence detection machine in the Laboratory for Familial Dysautonomia at Fordham, allowed for the discovery of a Vitamin E treatment, which stimulates and improves functioning of disabilities caused by FD. These disabilities of the autonomic nervous system, which are present at birth, include difficulty swallowing, high blood pressure, decreased pain and temperature awareness, crying without tears and eye infections.

Leading the campaign for a funding allocation from the City Council were Bronx residents Beverly and Ted Fettman, whose daughter Judy is affected by Familial Dysautonomia. "We asked the researchers for a wish list, and they said they needed this piece of equipment," Beverly Fettman said. On a quest to fulfill the needs of the researchers, the Fettmans approached Council Member Oliver Koppell, an essential component in the campaign for the funding, Fettman said.

Koppell returned the compliment. "Beverly has been a tireless worker in the quest for a cure," he said.

The Fettmans are especially grateful to the group of Fordham researchers in the Laboratory for Familial Dysautonomia. "I have the utmost appreciation for those who have devoted their time, effort, skills, and creativity to alleviate the problems facing those with FD," Fettman said. "They are truly special people." 

Ed. note: For more information regarding Familial Dysautonomia, visit www.familialdysautonomia.org. Additional resources for FD are available in the Treatment and Evaluation Center at NYU Hospital and also at the Montefiore Reproductive Center, where genetic testing can be obtained.

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