MIND researchers to scale Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for fragile X research

Posted Jan. 16. 2013

Climb for the Cure ©

UC Davis Professors Paul and Randi Hagerman have devoted their lives to finding cures for a host of disorders that all spring from an inherited defect on the X chromosome that causes lifelong intellectual disability in children, tremors in older men and reproductive problems in women.

Paul Hagerman, a professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine and Randi Hagerman, medical director of the UC Davis MIND Institute, will make a journey that symbolizes their commitment to finding treatments for the conditions — fragile X-related disorders — in February.

Randi Hagerman © UC Regents“Climbing a mountain is a good paradigm for scientific achievement. You have to prepare and you need a team in order to achieve your objective.”
— Randi Hagerman

The husband-and-wife team will trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. But the journey is not solely a symbolic one. It is intended to raise awareness — and funds — to find cures for fragile X-related conditions.

Joining them will be their colleagues, UC Davis Professors Flora Tassone and Isaac Pessah, among others. They have dubbed the expedition to the top of the 19,341-foot dormant volcano “Kilimanjaro 2013: Climb to Cure.”

Flora Tassone and Isaac Pessah © UC Regents
Flora Tassone and Isaac Pessah

The journey exemplifies the importance of persistence, training and dedication in overcoming significant obstacles to attain the desired goal — the summit — in much the same way that biomedical research is an uphill climb, Randi Hagerman said.

“Climbing a mountain is a good paradigm for scientific achievement,” Hagerman said. “You have to prepare and you need a team in order to achieve your objective.”

The Hagermans are among the world’s leading researchers into fragile X-related conditions, which cause disorders as diverse as fragile X syndrome — the leading cause of intellectual disability and the leading known single-gene cause of autism — and a Parkinson’s disease-like condition called fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome, or FXTAS, that the Hagermans discovered. The term “fragile X” is used because of the altered appearance of the X chromosome among sufferers from the conditions.

Randi Hagerman said that the journey will involve the classic western route. The trekkers will commence on February 17 and scale the mountain during the ensuing seven days through forest woodlands and heath, alpine desert, to the arctic zone and summit of Uhuru Peak on February 24.

Hagermans © UC Regents
Randi and Paul Hagerman during a practice climb for the Kilimanjaro 2013: Climb to Cure.

Contributions to Kilimanjaro 2013: Climb to Cure can be made online or by returning this form via U.S. mail to: UC Davis Health Sciences Development, 4900 Broadway, Suite 1150, Sacramento, CA 95820.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series is available online at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu.