Dr. Eric Klann
Dr. Eric Klann is a Professor in the Center of Neural Science at New York University. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics from the Medical College of Virginia. Received postdoctoral training in Dr. David Sweatt’s laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine. Held faculty positions in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh and the Department of Molecular Physiology at Baylor College of Medicine.
Q: What prompted you to begin a career in research?
A: I was a Chemistry major at Gannon University and considered medical school and graduate school. After working in the laboratory and working in a hospital, I decided it would be much more fun and challenging to work in a laboratory doing biomedical research.
Q: What led you to specifically target Angelman syndrome?
A: I have worked for most of my career trying to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory. While at Baylor in the early- to mid-2000s, we began working on neurodevelopmental disorders because of the outstanding human and molecular geneticists that were making mouse models of these disorders. Our goal has been to take what we have learned about the molecular mechanisms underlying cognition and determine how these mechanisms are altered in disorders such as Angleman syndrome.
Q: What is your specific area of focus within the field of Angelman syndrome research?
A: We currently have two main areas of focus. In work that was funded by the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, we found that drugs that reduce neuregulin-1- ErbB4 signaling can reverse synaptic plasticity impairments and memory deficits in Angelman syndrome model mice. We currently are trying to determine whether we can develop better drugs that target this signaling pathway. We also are exploring whether oxidative stress plays a role in synaptic and cognitive deficits in Angelman syndrome model mice.
Q: What have you learned through your research thus far, and what is the next step?
A: Angelman syndrome and similar disorders historically have been labeled as “developmental” disorders, which implied that people with the disorder could not be helped unless they were treated at a very early age. What we, and others, have learned from studies of mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders is that synaptic impairments and cognitive deficits can be targeted and reversed even when the mice are adults.
Q: What is the single most rewarding aspect of conducting Angelman syndrome research?
A: Knowing that there is a chance that our research might one day help not only individuals with Angelman syndrome, but also their families.
Q: How do you see your research complimenting the efforts of other Angelman syndrome or neurodevelopmental disorder researchers?
A: Angelman syndrome and neurodevelopmental disorders are very complex, so it is unlikely that a drug for a single molecular target will be effective therapeutically for every individual. There are now an incredible number of top laboratories that are working on neurodevelopmental disorders. Our work is quite complimentary and we have a number of collaborations with these laboratories that we hope will speed the search for viable therapies for Angelman syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Q: Does your research focus on any other disorders?
A: We work on other neurodevelopmental disorders, including fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, and autism. We also conduct research on Alzheimer’s disease.
Q: What activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
A: Taking advantage of all that New York City has to offer, including running along the Hudson River, attending concerts and plays with my wife Amy, and going to the Washington Square Park dog park with our pug Jackie Kennedy. We also enjoy hiking and kayaking in the Catskill Mountains where we have a weekend home.
Q: Do you have someone in or outside the scientific community that has inspired you, or is there someone you look up to as a personal hero?
A: My brother-in-law Stan has Down syndrome and I always have been inspired by the love, patience, and dedication of his parents, Betty and Buddy Gallup.