Biology Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Dedman College Research Faculty News

SMU Biologist Awarded $2.5 Million in New NIH Grants

Dedman College News
Originally Posted: July 11, 2018

Dr. Santosh D’Mello, professor and former chair of the SMU Department of Biological Sciences was recently awarded two prestigious research grants totaling $2.5 milion by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study two different fatal brain disorders.

The first grant of $1.29 million will be used to study Huntington’s disease, an inherited brain degenerative disease. Dr. D’Mello’s team will investigate whether the abnormal loss of brain cells in patients with Huntington’s disease is due to the reduction in levels of a protein called FoxP1. Using a mouse model of Huntington’s disease, Dr. D’Mello and his team will examine whether elevating FoxP1 levels protects the brain from the pathological loss of brain cells and improves behavioral performance.

The second award will fund research investigating the mechanisms underlying MeCP2 duplication syndrome, a rare inherited neurodevelopmental that occurs almost exclusively in males. Patients with MeCP2 duplication syndrome exhibit severe cognitive disability, motor deficits, speech impairment, seizures and generally die in their mid-twenties. Using a mouse model of the disorder, Dr. D’Mello and his team discovered that the syndrome resulting from defects in brain cells called astrocytes, which then affects neurons leading to their degeneration.

“We are honored to receive these awards particularly given the highly competitive funding environment. We hope our research will contribute to a better understanding of these devastating brain disorders so that effective treatment strategies can be developed,” says Dr. D’Mello.

In addition to these two new grants, Dr. D’Mello’s laboratory is currently funded by two additional awards from the NIH – a $1.6 million grant to study the role of proteins called histone deacetylases in brain degeneration and a $414,000 grant to study how a protein called heat shock factor-1 protect brain cells from degenerating.

For more information on Dr. D’Mello’s research and lab, visit: