Osama Al-Dalahmah Becomes the First Recipient of the Nancy S. Wexler Young Investigator Prize
The Hereditary Disease Foundation has just announced the official launch of the Nancy S. Wexler Discovery Fund and named Osama Al-Dalahmah, MD, PhD, a neuropathology instructor in the department of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, as the first recipient of the Young Investigator Prize for his project entitled “Studying Huntington’s disease astrocytes in different parts of the brain: A regional study of the landscape of gene expression at the single cell level”.
The Nancy S. Wexler Discovery Fund was established to honor the pioneering spirit, relentless dedication and enduring optimism of Nancy Wexler, President of the Hereditary Disease Foundation (HDF), as she celebrates her 75th birthday this year. The Fund will encourage research collaborations and the recruitment of young scientists, echoing the hallmarks of Nancy’s career. Each year the Fund will award the Nancy S. Wexler Young Investigator Prize to a researcher whose work reflects the highest caliber of excellence, diligence and creative thinking. The Fund will also support educational workshops and conferences.
Dr. Al-Dalahmah aims to discover ways to increase the brain’s ability to protect itself from damage in Huntington’s disease by studying the differences in gene expression between vulnerable brain areas that are severely affected in HD and more resilient regions. His emphasis is on astrocytes – the major support cells in the brain that nurture neurons and ensure their functioning. HD changes astrocytes in several ways - some may be beneficial and some deleterious. By looking at gene expression from thousands of cells in both vulnerable and resilient brain regions in adult onset and juvenile onset HD, Dr. Al-Dalahmah seeks to determine how astrocytes respond to damage caused by HD. This knowledge will provide insight into the earliest gene expression changes in HD. Knowing how to adapt the brain’s capacity to protect itself from the damage dealt to it by HD is critical for the development of new therapies.
“Osama’s brilliant work is bringing us closer to new therapies and potential cures for Huntington’s disease,” said Dr. Anne B. Young, Chair of the Hereditary Disease Foundation Scientific Advisory Board and Vice Chair of the HDF Board of Directors. “This Prize honors Nancy’s extraordinary ability to recruit young, talented scientists to the field and build research collaborations.”
Congratulations to Dr. Al-Dalahmah!