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03/22/2005 08:00:00

McKnight Awards Go to Two from Caltech

PASADENA, Calif.--Richard Andersen, Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, and Kai Zinn, professor of biology, both of the California Institute of Technology, have each received a 2005 McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorder Award.

Andersen's work focuses on severely paralyzed human patients. These patients can think about making movements, but due to brain lesions from trauma, stroke, or peripheral neuropathies, can no longer make movements. The McKnight funding will allow Andersen's group to further their research in creating brain-implant technology that will interface between a patient's thoughts for movement and artificial limbs, computers, and other devices that will "read out" the patient's desires.

Zinn's work on prions, which are commonly known to the public as the cause of mad cow disease, addresses the mechanisms involved in the accumulation of these proteins. Aggregates composed of prion proteins are known to cause fatal human brain diseases. Through his study of prion propagation, in Drosophila and yeast, Zinn hopes to uncover how prions are formed and whether prions might have functions in the normal brain.

The Research Projects Award from the McKnight Foundation, established in 1977, and its Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, established in 1986, will provide $300,000 each to the Caltech professors over three years to further their work in neuroscience.

Written by Robert Tindol