With the support of a Major League Baseball star, a new University of Florida research center on an island settled by the Vikings could lead to breakthroughs about a rare genetic disorder and potentially change the course of care for high blood pressure and other common conditions.
UF College of Medicine researchers studying a genetic condition called glycogen storage disease type III, which prevents children and adults from properly processing sugar stored in the body, have received support from the Johnny Damon Foundation to establish a new research center on the Faroe Islands, located in the North Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland. Because of the isolation of the island chain, genetic diseases are common there, making it a fertile ground for researchers.
"Johnny Damon has no connection to this disease, so his willingness to help means a lot to me," said David Weinstein, M.D., a professor of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine and director of the UF Glycogen Storage Disease Program. "We hear often about problems in sports, but we don't frequently hear about athletes who go out of their way to help people. We could not do this without his support."
Type III glycogen storage disease is one of the rarest forms of the disease and is linked to all the places where the Vikings settled more than 1,000 years ago. The disease occurs because of a genetic glitch that prevents children's bodies from properly processing glycogen, stored sugar the body uses as fuel throughout the day. In children with this disease, stored sugar accumulates in the liver and muscles, including the heart, often causing it to grow so large it cannot function.
One in 3,000 people on the Faroe Islands has glycogen storage disease, or GSD, compared with about one in 100,000 in the United States. In addition, one in 22 people on the islands is a carrier for the disease, a statistic Weinstein suspects may be linked to other conditions prevalent there
|Contact: April Frawley Birdwell|
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