Science Market Update

U.Utah Analytical Lab Findings on Mitochondria in Motor Neuron Disease

Posted by Jennifer Nieuwkerk on Tue, Sep 30, 2014

Debilitating and fatal motor neuron diseases are a type of progressive neurological disorder that causes patients to lose voluntary muscle activity when motor neurons are destroyed. Patients with motor neuron diseases lose the ability to speak, breathe, swallow and walk, and as such, much research into these diseases is needed to improve patients’ quality of life. Accordingly, life science researchers at the University of Utah are making motor neuron disease research a priority. Their latest study has led to the discovery of the role of mitochondria in these diseases as well as a new mouse model for future studies.

In the analytical lab's study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Janet Shaw and her team of life science researchers found that when healthy mitochondria were stopped from moving along axons (electricity-conducting nerve fibers), mice developed neurodegenerative diseases. Their research showed that motor neuron diseases might be caused by abnormal distribution of mitochondria along the spinal cord and axons.



Dr. Janet Shaw

Image courtsy of the University of Utah


“We’ve known for a long time of the link between mitochondrial function and distribution and neural disease,” Dr. Shaw said. “But we haven’t been able to tell if the defect occurs because mitochondria aren’t getting to the right place or because they’re not functioning correctly.”

Although much more research is needed before this life science research leads to a cure, Dr. Shaw's study may be the first step in the process of developing new drugs to partially treat these diseases. Dr. Stefan Pulst, professor and chair of the University of Utah’s neurology department and the study’s co-author, said that their findings are important because the mitochondrial transport process is significant for other neurons besides motor neurons.

“The Miro1 (Mitochondrial Rho) proteins and the respective animal models represent a breakthrough for studying ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and other neurodegenerative diseases,” Dr. Pulst said.

Life science research such as this study by Dr. Shaw, Dr. Pulst and their team of investigators is funded by a steady influx of grants at the University of Utah. With an endowment over $600 million and life science expenditures over $250 million, the University of Utah funds a great deal of its own research in addition to receiving grants from organizations such as the NIH and NSF. Consider the following funding statistics for the University of Utah:

  • In 2012, the university’s life science R&D expenditures were ranked 47th in the country at $269.5 million.
  • In 2013, the University of Utah was ranked 41st for NIH funding, having received $134.1 million.
  • As of September, the University of Utah has received $121.2 million from the National Institutes of Health for the year 2014.
  • In 2013, the National Science Foundation gave the University of Utah $37.2 million in research funding.
  • Construction on the $36.4 million Oral Health Education Building is scheduled to be completed in December 2014.
  • The school’s endowment was $670.4 million in 2012.


If you would like to increase lab sales among well-funded life  science researchers at the University of Utah, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. invites you to exhibit at the BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at the University of Utah on October 23rd, 2014.

To learn more about life science marketing events in other regions of the United States, please see the 2014 schedule and 2015 schedule. Click on the exhibitors button below for an in-depth list of research funding statistics and vendor show information for the University of Utah. 


Vanderbilt Exhibitors Click Here     Researchers

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