Message from the Director

It has been another exciting and productive year of advances in research and clinical care at the Washington University Neurofibromatosis (NF) Center. Our clinical and laboratory investigators continue to expand their research initiatives aimed at developing personalized medical approaches for people affected with NF. In addition, we are so grateful for the ongoing partnerships with our families that make these high-risk, high-payoff ventures possible.
We are delighted to share the news that Mrs. Erika Ramirez was promoted to full-time Clinical Nurse Coordinator of the NF Clinical Program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Erika previously worked with Drs. Stephanie Morris and David Gutmann as a part-time nurse for our families, but has recently expanded her role to facilitate specialty scheduling and coordinate patient care planning, thus serving as a critical liaison for our families. In addition, Dr. Nicole M. Brossier was promoted to Instructor in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. While she is currently completing her postdoctoral fellowship training in my laboratory, she will be taking a leadership role in the management of children with NF-related brain tumors.Lastly, we have recently welcomed Dr. Amy E. Armstrong to our management team. Dr. Armstrong completed her training in Pediatric and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Lurie Children’s Hospital (Northwestern University) with Dr. Robert Listernick and Riley Children’s Hospital (Indiana University) with Dr. Wade Clapp. She brings her expertise in NF1 plexiform neurofibroma clinical trials to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
It has been another year of progress in our understanding of neurofibromatosis, with scientists and clinicians in the Washington University NF Center publishing important new discoveries. These include studies defining how immune system cells control optic glioma growth in mice, developing a mouse model for sleep disturbances in NF1, identifying new genetic markers for brain immune system cells, and characterizing optic gliomas in a pig model of NF1. In addition, one of our Pediatric Neurology residents (Dr. Cristina Gaudioso) completed a large multi-center study of NF2 in children younger than ten years of age. Moreover, we have expanded ongoing collaborations with our colleagues in the Institute for Informatics (Drs. Philip Payne, Randi Foraker, and Aditi Gupta) and the Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Research Center at Washington University (Drs. John Constantino, Susan Maloney, and Kristen Kroll), as well as fortified our international research studies with Professor Helmut Kettenmann at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin. We also continue to recruit families to participate in clinical research (NF1 Genome Project, NF1 Stem Cell Repository, and Longitudinal NF1 Autism Study), which aim to improve our ability to predict the risk of developing specific medical problems in people with NF1 (precision medicine).
In addition, Washington University NF Center neuroscientists participated in CAMP NEURO, a program designed to educate and expose high school students to medical research. Visitors to the NF Center learned how laboratory studies have advanced our understanding of the health problems affecting children and adults with NF1. Following the tour, one student from the group was inspired to become a neuroscientist, and contacted us about working in one of our laboratories next summer.
David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, FAAN
Donald O. Schnuck Family Professor
Director, Washington University NF Center
Vice Chair for Research Affairs, Neurology