A Chapman University School of Pharmacy junior faculty member has been awarded a $1,059,867 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for ataxia research.

Dr. Maio Zhang

Dr. Miao Zhang

Ataxia is a degenerative, hereditary disease of the nervous system. Those diagnosed often experience the same symptoms as someone who is drunk, such as slurred speech, stumbling and falling. All are related to deterioration of the part of the brain that is responsible for coordinating movement.

The disease can be fatal within 10 to 15 years of the onset of symptoms and can affect people of all ages. There are currently no effective treatments or cure for the estimated 150,000 Americans diagnosed due to the unknown origin and development of the disease.

With this grant, Chapman Assistant Professor in ion channel pharmacology, Miao Zhang, Ph.D., will be able to further their research to develop new drug treatments for movement disorders.

“This innovation award allows us to take further action to identify the underlying causes of ataxia,” Professor Zhang said. “These SK ion channels have been associated with ataxia, although their exact role is not clear. Drugs that enhance SK ion channel activity have shown promise for treatment in past studies.”