Richard Lui of MSNBC interviews Huda Zoghbi, MD, Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Zoghbi discusses her scientific contributions to Alzheimer's research and her pioneering work in genetics.
Learn more about Dr. Zoghbi's BrightFocus-funded research.
Richard Lui: So we are here at an amazing place, the Embassy of Italy, here at Washington DC for this, which is an annual gathering with the BrightFocus Foundation focusing on three major issues, one of which is Alzheimer's, second of which is macular degeneration, third of all which is glaucoma—a lot of different words in there but the focus here is to get big brains like the one I have here next to me and to help them find solutions to combat to these conditions, right? So it’s real honor to sit here and speak with Dr. Huda Zoghbi, she is a leading expert on the genetic cause of several neurological diseases and she has many, many titles and Dr. Huda Zoghbi first of all thanks for being here to support this. You’re being honored today as well, congratulations on that, and for good reason. ow just give us quickly a sense of what you do in the various institutions that your involved in.
Dr. Zoghbi: Sure. I'm at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's [Hospital] and supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and what I do is I study genetic disorders of the brain, gain insight on how we can improve health— brain health—by figuring out when genes have mutations what goes on and what can we do to help.
Richard Lui: So, if you were explaining this to, let’s say, my mom or dad, in terms of what you have learned in the last year that is encouraging, what would that be in brain health?
Dr. Zoghbi: So, in brain health, one thing that’s really encouraging is that the brain is resilient, and if we find a treatment, we can reverse some symptoms. I think that’s really important and that’s true for childhood diseases and true for adult degenerative diseases. If we don’t wait too long, we have a chance of reversing.
Richard Lui: Yeah, get it early. So give me one of the symptoms that you found a little bit of glimmer of hope or glimmer of light that you’ve discovered within recent years.
Dr. Zoghbi: So, one of the glimmers of hope we discovered, is at least for childhood development disorders, we found sometimes we have extra copies of genes. If you now normalize the level using the small molecule, you can actually reverse the symptoms in animal models of the disease and this is now a springboard to move that into human studies.
Richard Lui: What kind of symptoms, Dr. Zoghbi, specifically?
Dr. Zoghbi: So in this particular disorder, which is called magnitude duplication, it features, learning problems, seizures, breathing difficulties, all of the social problems you can reverse, social behavioral problems.
Richard Lui: How many people might your research affect and make better? How many millions of people around the world?
Dr. Zoghbi: So, in principle, we work on rare diseases and we try to find treatments for those rare diseases, but what I’ve learned, that many of the principles that apply to rare diseases you can now apply them to the more common disorders using similar strategies. So eventually, when we have headway in some of those rare disorders we hope it will affect millions in the long term.
Richard Lui: Millions and millions and millions—
Dr. Zoghbi: In the long term.
Richard Lui: Well Dr. Huda Zoghbi congratulations again being honored here at the foundation’s gala here, BrightFocus, and again if you could just Google her you’ll learn a lot along the way and she’s pretty cool too—I won’t talk about it she worked with some other people where I work. Oh, by the way, my name is Richard Lui from MSNBC and so I love asking questions so I’m glad you stopped by and enjoy tonight’s gala.
Dr. Zoghbi: Thank you.
Richard Lui: Thank you so much.
This content was last updated on: June 12, 2019