New grant! Two years of funding to study human brain tissue and oxytocin receptors

I am a few months late on this news, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less excited about it! I am very proud to have received (with my PI, Dr. Karen Bales) an R21 from the NIMH, which provides two years of funding for our project, entitled “Characterization of oxytocin receptors in autism spectrum disorder”. Oxytocin has been implicated in the underlying neurobiology of autism. Oxytocin is also currently an experimental therapeutic for individuals with autism, despite the fact that we don’t know where in the human brain oxytocin acts, nor do we know whether the oxytocin receptor distribution is altered in the brains of individuals with autism compared to neurotypically developing individuals. This grant will answer these questions, as well as characterize the effect of age on oxytocin receptor expression in human brain tissue.

I am co-investigator on the grant (I collected all of the preliminary data last summer with human brainstem tissue). As the primary author of the grant, I am very proud that it was funded on the first try!! This is the first NIH grant I’ve ever written, and I am simply ecstatic that it was funded without revision! Let’s all cross fingers that my grant writing luck continues in the future.

As of last month, I am managing the entire grant, including hiring an assistant(!) to help me section tissue, and running all of the procedures, data collection, experimentation, analysis, and manuscript preparation for publication. It’s going to be an exciting two years. After 5-6 years of working with brain tissue from nonhuman primates, I will be moving forward to study brain tissue from humans! This step is a thrill and a privilege. I feel honored to be in a position to work with such graciously donated and irreplaceable tissue.

For anyone interested in tissue donation, there’s a lot of information on the NIH’s NeuroBioBank website, which is the brain bank that has provided/will be providing tissue for this project.

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