Message from the Director

In 2018, as we celebrate 25 years of Neurofibromatosis research and clinical care at Washington University, Neurofibromatosis (NF) Center research and clinical members have continued to expand investigative initiatives aimed at developing personalized medical approaches for people affected with NF. We are grateful for the continued partnership with our families that make these high-risk, high-payoff ventures possible.
It has been another year of progress in our understanding of neurofibromatosis, with numerous researchers in the Washington University NF Center publishing important new discoveries. These include advances in our understanding of the contribution of immune system cells to brain tumor growth, discovering a correlation between the location of the NF1 gene mutation and autism, identifying a new marker for malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, and studying autism behaviors in mice engineered with Nf1 gene mutations. In addition, two of our Pediatric Neurology residents completed the largest study of MRI scans in children with NF1, demonstrating that brain tumors are more frequently detected than previously appreciated. Moreover, we have forged new collaborations with our colleagues in the Institute for Informatics and the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center at Washington University, as well as expanded our international efforts with Professor Helmut Kettenmann at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin. We also continue to enlarge our unique collection of resources essential to making these advances, including the NF1 Genome Project used to discover subtle DNA changes that might one day serve to predict the risk of developing specific medical problems in people with NF1.
September 5, 2018 marked the 4th biennial Washington University NF Center Symposium. Highlighted by two internationally-renown keynote speakers, Dr. Frank McCormick and Dr. Eric Legius, numerous NF Center investigators presented advances in NF research and clinical care.
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.