May 4, 2011

National Academy of Sciences elects genetics leader Stephen T. Warren

Stephen T. Warren has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his excellence in original scientific research.

Warren is William Patterson Timmie Professor and chair of the Department of Human Genetics in Emory School of Medicine. He is also Charles H. Candler chair in human genetics and a professor of biochemistry and pediatrics. 

Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Warren will be inducted into the Academy next April during its 149th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. 

Warren, elected along with 71 others, brings the number of Emory faculty elected to NAS to four. There are currently just over 2,000 active NAS members. NAS members have included Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 living Academy members have won Nobel Prizes. 

"Steve Warren's pioneering scientific discoveries in the field of human genetics have led to revolutionary advances in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with fragile X syndrome," says Thomas J. Lawley, dean of the School of Medicine. "It is the rare scientist indeed whose research leads from the most basic laboratory breakthroughs for an extremely challenging disease to a promising treatment within his or her lifetime." 

Warren's genetic discoveries include the identification of "triplet repeat expansion" as the cause of fragile X syndrome and as an entirely new inheritance mechanism of genetic disease. Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent inherited cause of intellectual disability. 

Fragile X syndrome discovery trail 

In 1991, Warren led an international research team that discovered the FMR1 gene, which is responsible for fragile X syndrome. In 1993, his team characterized FMRP, the protein from FMR1, and learned that fragile X syndrome occurs when the FMR1 gene does not produce the FMRP protein.

Warren and his colleagues developed a diagnostic test for fragile X syndrome and have since made additional discoveries about how the genetic mutation affects "downstream" proteins in the brain that negatively affect development and behavior.

Through a widespread screening process, Warren and other scientists have recently identified potential drug treatments for fragile X syndrome that currently are being tested in a variety of clinical trials. 


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