Eva Anton, PhD, professor of cell biology and physiology and member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, received an NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award to study the underpinnings of brain malformations and neurodevelopmental disorders.
On the surface neurons are cilia – tiny microtubule appendages that serve as antenna for cells to sense and respond to signals from other cells. Their role is not the same as cells communicating through the typical network of axons and dendrites that, but scientists
now think that disrupted primary cilia signaling plays a role in neuronal circuit formation and function. When cilia signaling is disrupted, the result can be brain malformations and neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.
Eva Anton, PhD, professor in the UNC Department of Cell Biology and Physiology and a primary faculty member at the UNC Neuroscience Center, studies neurodevelopment and has been awarded an NIH Transformative Research Award, together with Jeff Lichtman, MD, PhD, the Santiago Ramón y Cajal Professor of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, and Ryohei Yasuda, PhD, director of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, to elucidate cilia-driven signaling with the end goal of mending neuronal circuitry and treating disorders.
The NIH Common Fund supports a series of exceptionally high-impact programs that cross NIH Institutes and Centers. Common Fund programs pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that require trans-NIH collaboration to succeed. The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, part of the NIH Common Fund, manages four awards – the Pioneer Award, the New Innovator Award, the Transformative Research Award, and the Early Independence Award.
Each one is considered part of the NIH Director’s Awards Program, given to exceptionally creative scientists proposing high-risk, high-impact research at all career stages. These prestigious awards were created to support unconventional approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. This year, announced this week, the NIH awarded more than $200 million to support potentially transformative biomedical research projects.
Anton’s project aims to precisely and comprehensively delineate primary cilia-driven signaling mechanisms animating neuronal function and malfunction in the cerebral cortex. Understanding the molecular logic of primary cilia’s role in neuronal functional dynamics and the relevance of this paradigm for neural circuit malfunction in humans will enable researchers to use primary cilia signaling as a tool to mend neural circuit disorders.
Read more about Anton’s research project (1R01MH132710-01) at the NIH Reporter site.