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    Stanislav S. Zakharenko, MD, PhD

    Stanislav S. Zakharenko, MD, PhD

    Zakharenko wins institution's first Searle Award

    Stanislav Zakharenko, MD, PhD, Developmental Neurobiology, has been named a 2006 Searle Scholar. Joining 15 of the country’s most promising young scientists, Zakharenko will receive a total award of $240,000 during a three year period to support his research.

    Only three neuroscientists from more than 120 research and academic institutions were honored with the award. This is the first Searle Award for St. Jude faculty.

    The Searle Scholars Program will support Zakharenko’s study of the genetic basis of schizophrenia using a variety of mouse models that carry mutations identical to those linked to this disease in humans. Zakharenko’s research includes the first use at any institution of state-of-the-art imaging technology called the two-photon laser scanning microscope (TPLSM) to study the function of individual nerves in the brain of a living animal. As part of this project, he will use TPLSM to examine these nerves in both brain slices and in the brain of living mice—both in the hippocampus and the auditory cortex. The hippocampus is the key brain structure responsible for learning and the auditory cortex processes sound information.

    The overall objective of the work is to understand how these mutations change the structure of synapses—the communications link at which one nerve signals another—as well as the actual transmission of those signals and the ability of the synapse to change its sensitivity to signals through time.

    “Auditory hallucinations are one of the most enigmatic symptoms of schizophrenia, in addition to problems with working memory and attention,” Zakharenko said. “Based on my initial work supported in part by the Searle Scholars Program, I plan to use the mouse models to study how specific mutations linked to human schizophrenia affect the response to sounds. My goal in using this new approach is to understand how the same mutations in humans contribute to certain symptoms of schizophrenia, especially auditory hallucinations.”

    Established in 1980, the Searle Scholars Program is funded from the estates of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Searle. Searle was the grandson of the founder of G.D. Searle and Co., the international pharmaceutical firm. Searle Scholars work in institutions in the United States, Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

    May 2006