Tanya P. Garcia, Ph.D.

Tanya P. Garcia, Ph.D.

More than 30,000 people in the United States are currently diagnosed with Huntington’s disease (HD), a hereditary, degenerative brain disorder that results in a loss of cognitive, behavioral, and physical control and for which there is no cure. In an effort to combat this disease, the Huntington Disease Society of America (HDSA) has awarded four Human Biology Project Fellowships, including one to Tanya P. Garcia, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

The 2-year, $150,000 project entitled “Improved Definition and Prediction of Huntington’s Disease Motor-Onset using Advanced Statistical Models” was chosen from 27 internationally-based proposals received by the HDSA. With the grant funding, Dr. Garcia intends to develop modern statistical techniques to assess patient-specific markers of HD to discover their usefulness in predicting HD motor-diagnosis. The improved predictions will ultimately provide more informative genetic counseling sessions for presymptomatic carriers in both treatment options and making important life decisions such as marriage or family planning.

“These awards will foster innovative research to help the Huntington disease research community better understand the biology of Huntington’s disease as it occurs in humans,” said George Yohrling, Ph.D., Director of Medical and Scientific Affairs at HDSA. “We are excited about the potential impact these HDSA supported studies can have on assessing potential disease-modifying therapies, as well as expanding our knowledge of the underlying causes of disease progression.”

These grants emphasize the important of bringing basic and clinical researchers together to facilitate HD science beyond animal models into human data and with the participation of those suffering from the disease. Dr. Garcia will work in collaboration with the HDSA Center of Excellence at Columbia University, one of a select network of academic medical centers providing expert multidisciplinary care to HD patients and families.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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