The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI) is pleased to announce that Samantha Lewis, assistant professor of cell biology, development and physiology, is the winner of the 2022 Rennie Fund for the Study of Epilepsy. Lewis will receive a one-year $40,000 award for the project described below. The Rennie Fund was created in 1962 as the result of a bequest from the Mary Elizabeth Rennie Trust to support research on epilepsy.
Read about the winning proposal:
Mechanisms of molecular pathogenesis underlying mitochondrial epilepsy
Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, Development and Physiology
Cells require a continual energy supply to survive. Within our bodies, the majority of our energy is generated in a compartment of our cells called the mitochondrion via the oxidation of carbohydrates and fats that we eat. When our mitochondria don’t work properly, it interferes with cellular energy supply, leading to devastating diseases. Because of its high energy demand relative to other organs, mitochondrial disease often first affects the brain. In the Lewis Lab, we study the DNA blueprint for building the mitochondrion. Once we understand how healthy mitochondria are built and maintained, we can identify what step(s) are going wrong in disease and invent ways to protect our cellular energy supply. Errors in the mitochondrial DNA blueprint often cause epilepsy. Here, we are proposing to study a poorly characterized gene implicated in mitochondrial epilepsy. We will define how the product of this gene fits into the broader picture of mitochondrion maintenance, and specifically how it interacts with the mitochondrial DNA to support the function of brain cells relevant to epilepsy – cerebral interneurons. Overall, these studies will cause a paradigm shift in our understanding of how mitochondria function, provide insights into how the brain maintains mitochondrial DNA-dependent energy supply and clarify the consequences of imbalanced energy supply and demand.
About the Rennie Fund for the Study of Epilepsy
The Rennie Fund was created in 1962 as the result of a bequest from the Mary Elizabeth Rennie Trust to the UC Regents, to be used at their discretion for the study of epilepsy. It was later allocated to the UC Berkeley campus, and in 2017, the fund was transferred to the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.
Each year, up to three grants of $20-40K per proposal are awarded. Proposals can be directly related to epilepsy, or to closely related areas in neuroscience. Funds are available for one year and can be used to support research, development, conferences, and postdoc/graduate student support.
To learn more about the Rennie Fund for the Study of Epilepsy, visit the fund page.