The BCM Fund supports programs across the breadth of Baylor College of Medicine's mission, including community outreach programs on genetic disorders, addiction research in the Human Neuroimaging Lab, and patient care initiatives at Baylor Clinic, among other priority projects. Some programs that have benefited from the BCM Fund are highlighted below.
When you support the BCM Fund, you make possible the programs that define the College as a leader in education, research and healthcare – each year, every year.
Dr. Art Beaudet's Autism Research
In recent years, the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically, although much of this difference may be explained by changes in diagnostic criteria. Dr. Art Beaudet's lab, supported by the BCM Fund, is making rapid progress in identifying genetic causes of autism.
"We are identifying genetic abnormalities and have a growing understanding the most severe cases often associated with mental retardation, but we would like to understand the milder forms of autism," Beaudet said. "That's where the children have a normal IQ, but their social behaviors cause functional disabilities."
Beaudet proposes that the past difficulty in identifying autism genes might be because almost all studies assumed that autism was caused by ancient mutations in genes that arose hundreds of years ago. His new research looks at the possibility of recent mutations occurring new in the patient or in the last few generations in the family. He also suggests that some autism might be caused by epimutations rather than mutations. Epimutations are changes in the function of a gene that do not involve a change in the DNA sequence.
The goals of the Beaudet lab are to identify these more recent mutations, identify epimutations causing autism, and conduct a trial of drug therapy in children with specific genetic forms of autism.
"We're looking for ways we can understand autism more fully and intervene if possible," said Beaudet, himself a donor to the BCM Fund. He added that the BCM Fund support came at an important time in his lab's research.
As a post-doctoral researcher with Rockefeller University in New York, Hoang Nguyen, Ph.D., specialized in the study of skin stem cells, the cells that allow the epidermis to constantly regenerate. Scientists consider the study of these cells to be one of the most important areas of stem cell research.
Nguyen's early work in this field has shown great promise. So when she applied for faculty positions at institutions across the country, Nguyen ended up with multiple offers. She eventually settled on Baylor.
According to Peggy Goodell, Ph.D., director of the STaR Center, the College was able to successfully recruit Nguyen because of the support her program received from the BCM Fund.
The costs of recruiting a top young researcher, said Goodell, typically include not just salary, but start-up packages that allow scientists to equip their labs and launch their research.
"The STaR center conducts work in a growing field," Goodell said. "Other centers across the country are hiring young scientists. Without the support of the BCM Fund, we would not have been able to compete with the other institutions that were recruiting Hoang."