DMSC associate professor receives grant continuation


Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne, an Associate Professor with the Division of Medical Sciences at the University of Victoria, has received a grant continuation for her lab’s work on understanding neurodevelopment at the molecular level.

The award, generously provided by the Scottish Rite Charitable Research Foundation, is worth a total of $105,000 over three years. To be considered, research teams must be attempting to solve a “puzzle of the mind.” Swayne’s lab was only one of four labs selected nationwide for the 2015-2016 funding competition.

“I am honoured the Foundation chose to support my lab, and that they continue to see the value in our fundamental research on neurodevelopment,” said Swayne.

The grant will support the lab’s research on development disorders in children, specifically autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects the organization and wiring of the brain.

Led by Ph.D. student Dr. Juan C Sanchez-Arias, MD, and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Xiaoxue Xu, Ph.D., this research focuses specifically on new protein, Pannexin 1, that Swayne’s lab discovered. Pannexin 1 forms pores in the cell membrane that regulates the passage of certain molecules. “If we block these pores, or remove Pannexin 1 altogether, this will increase the development of neurites -- critical for a brain's healthy development.”

 Dr. Swayne’s lab hopes this research will lay the groundwork for new therapeutics that could improve the health of patients with ASD and other disorders.