New Pediatric Brain Disorder Research Facility Going Up in Med Center

A new facility in the Texas Medical Center dedicated to researching pediatric brain disorders will be the home to more than 170 researchers in just a few years. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital will be one of a kind.

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Set in the heart of the Medical Center between Baylor College of Medicine and MD Anderson Cancer Center, the 400,000 square foot research institute will be the first dedicated facility in the United States to use an multidisciplinary approach to the study of children's brains and related diseases. Dr. Huda Zoghbi is the institute's director and says it will be a unique, but effective approach.

"It's going pull people with a variety of different expertise that typically you don't think of as being experts to work on a problem such as a disease and bring them together. That's what's been lacking in medicine, approaching the human body, approaching the brain with the complexity it requires. How can you explain a network that is much more complicated than the Web? A biologist or a clinician can do it, but when you bring a mathematician who can talk to the biologist and think together about it, you can approach it better, so that's what's unique here."

Scheduled for completion in 2010, the institute will be home to researchers who will look for new treatments for common pediatric neurological disorders like epilepsy, autism and cerebral palsy. Dr. Ralph Feigin is physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital.

"Pediatric neurologic diseases represent one of the last frontiers in pediatric medicine. We can diagnose many of these diseases and we can modulate the condition with various kinds of therapies, but we can't really change the underlying disorder. What we hope to do with this institute is truthfully treat these diseases in a very definitive way so that children can live a normal life."

More than 300 million children worldwide suffer from mental or brain disorders. Mark Wallace is the president and CEO of Texas Children's Hospital.

"We're going to have a one-of-a-kind pediatric neurological research institute addressing all of these very complex and daunting neurological diseases that affect so many children in the United States and across the world. We know that there are about 14 million children in America alone that are impacted by one of these complex neurological diseases that we'll be addressing in this institute."ξ

Houston billionaire Dan Duncan and his wife Jan donated $50 million to get the project started. There's more information about the new facility through a link on our website, KUHF.org.

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