History and Milestones

David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD in the research laboratory

David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD in the research laboratory

The Washington University NF Center was first established in 2004 by David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, Donald O. Schnuck Family Professor in Neurology, with the mission of furthering research to improve the lives of people with NF.

Joining a distinguished list of outstanding centers and institutes that support the academic mission at Washington University, our center has enjoyed many successes throughout our long history.

2016

  • Spearheaded an international consortium analysis of children with NF1 and autism, which revealed new insights into the differences between autism in NF1 and that occurring in people without NF1
  • First demonstration that the specific germline NF1 gene mutation dramatically impacts optic glioma development and vision impairment
  • Identification of a novel mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex in the brain important for NF1 gene function
  • Reported associations between allergic conditions and brain tumors in children with NF1
  • Generation of the first model of NF1 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) in which the timing and location of cancer development can be controlled

2015

  • Discovered genomic predictor of NF1-brain tumor development
  • Launched a social skills program for teenagers with NF1 (Teen NF)
  • Identified a new growth factor made by non-cancerous cells that control mouse optic glioma growth
  • Discovered how RAS controls brain stem cell function
  • Described the frequency of autism in children with NF1
  • Identified another treatment for NF1 optic glioma, now in clinical trial for children with NF1 brain tumors
  • Used advanced sequencing methods to identify a new gene involved in NF1 malignant sarcoma (malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors)
  • Reported the first use of NF1 patient-derived stem cells to generate brain nerve cells
  • Discovered why NF1 optic glioma stem cells are less sensitive to some brain tumor treatments

2014

  • Established that gender influences optic pathway glioma (OPG)-associated vision loss
  • Identified new mutation in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs)
  • Identified a new therapeutic target for NF1-optic glioma
  • Determined how RAS protein controls cyclic AMP levels

2013

  • Performed the first whole genome sequencing of NF1-associated low-grade glioma
  • Demonstrated that non-cancerous cells in NF1-associated optic glioma are necessary for tumor formation
  • Showed that reduced dopamine levels are also partly responsible for learning problems in NF1 genetically-engineered mice
  • Characterized the spectrum of sleep problems in people affected with NF1
  • Collaborated with Jazz St. Louis to launch a music-motor therapy program for toddlers with NF1 (Beat NF)

2012

  • Demonstrated frequent development delays in children with NF1
  • Demonstrated that differences between stem cells in particular brain regions partly determine the pattern of brain tumor formation in children
  • Identified the cell of origin for NF1-associated optic glioma
  • Established the NF1 Brain Trust Project (NBTP) in which skin cells are converted to nerve cells for laboratory and translational research studies

2011

2010

  • Demonstrated how stem cells in different regions of the brain control their growth following NF1 gene dysfunction
  • Developed the first small-animal model of NF1-associated attention deficit
  • Identified reduced dopamine levels as responsible for the attention deficits in NF1 genetically-engineered mice
  • Discovered new treatments for NF1-associated attention deficit

2009

  • Investigated the therapeutic potential of rapamycin for treating human NF1-associated malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor
  • Determined the value of café-au-lait macules in children for establishing the diagnosis of NF1
  • Demonstrated that nerve cell death underlies the vision loss in mice with NF1-associated optic glioma
  • Identified new molecular targets for NF2-associated brain tumor treatment

2008

  • Demonstrated that the NF2 gene controls brain tumor growth
  • Showed that the NF1 gene controls pituitary gland function and body growth in mice
  • Identified how the NF1 gene controls non-cancerous cell function in mouse optic gliomas

2007

  • Applied advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study mouse models of NF1-associated optic glioma
  • Organized the second NF1 Optic Glioma Task Force report on the management of these tumors in children with NF1
  • Demonstrated that non-cancerous cells make factors that control the growth of NF1-associated optic glioma
  • Showed that the NF1 gene controls brain cell development differently in glial (support) cells than in nerve cells

2006

  • Co-organized first Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories meeting focused on using mouse models to inform human clinical trials
  • Selected as a participating site for the Department of Defense NF Clinical Trials Consortium

2005

  • Defined the pattern of optic glioma growth in small-animal models
  • First identified rapamycin as a rational therapy for NF1-associated tumors
  • Showed how the NF1 gene controls brain stem cell function
  • Developed two additional small-animal models of NF1-associated optic glioma

2004

  • Developed the first small-animal model of NF1-associated optic glioma
  • Determined how NF2 protein function is controlled in tumor cells
  • Employed genomic methods to distinguish NF1-associated malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors from those arising in people without NF1