Children's Tumor Foundation recognizes Parada for research

Von Recklinghausen Award cites enduring genetic disorders efforts

By Aline McKenzie

Dr. Luis Parada, chairman of developmental biology, has received the 2009 Friedrich von Recklinghausen Award from the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

The award recognizes Dr. Parada’s decades of research on neurofibromatosis, a set of genetic disorders in which tumors form along nerves. The award was presented in Portland, Ore., at the foundation’s annual conference.

Dr. Luis Parada

“It is always humbling to receive recognition from your peers,” said Dr. Parada, who directs the Kent Waldrep Center for Basic Research on Nerve Growth and Regeneration. “This award reflects many years of work and many laboratory members and collaborators. Studying neurofibromatosis has been one of the most rewarding endeavors of my career because it has opened so many scientific portals but also because we have had the opportunity to impact the quality of patients’ lives.”

Dr. Kim Hunter-Schaedle, chief scientific officer of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, said, “Dr. Parada has made groundbreaking achievements in many areas of research ranging from tuberous sclerosis to autism, but his contributions to neurofibromatosis have been truly significant.”

Among his accomplishments are his early work on the interaction of a cancer-related gene with NF1, the most common neurofibromatosis and his recent development of a genetically engineered mouse model for NF1-related skin tumors.

About 100,000 people in the U.S. suffer from one of the three neurofibromatosis disorders, which are more prevalent than cystic fibrosis, hereditary muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease and Tay-Sachs disease combined, according to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Complications include blindness; deafness; skeletal abnormalities; dermal, brain and spinal tumors; loss of limbs; malignancies; and learning disabilities.

The most common type of the disease, NF1, was originally called von Recklinghausen’s disease after the pathologist who first documented it.

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Dr. Parada holds the Southwestern Ball Distinguished Chair in Nerve Regeneration Research and the Diana K. and Richard C. Strauss Distinguished Chair in Developmental Biology.