UCI postdoctoral fellow Yuan-Chen Tsai (left) has received a $100,000 grant from the FRAXA Research Foundation. She and her advisor, Momoko Watanabe, assistant professor of anatomy & neurobiology in the School of Medicine, are working with other researchers in the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center to find a treatment for the Fragile X genetic neurological disorder. UCI Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center

The FRAXA Research Foundation, which supports work aimed at finding a specific treatment for fragile X syndrome, has awarded Yuan-Chen Tsai, a postdoctoral fellow in UCI’s Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology, a two-year, $100,000 grant to advance her studies. The genetic neurological disorder is the most common inherited cause of autism as well as mild to severe intellectual disability and occurs when a single gene mutates in the X chromosome, preventing proper brain development. Currently working in the lab of Momoko Watanabe, assistant professor of anatomy & neurobiology, Tsai seeks to build human brain organoids – laboratory-grown brain tissues – that more closely model how fragile X alters gene activity in the human brain. “Our new system will be a valuable tool for improving our understanding of the condition and provide a powerful testing platform, especially for preclinical drug trials,” she said.