Seeking Better Dystonia Screening Drugs


Ellen Hess Continues to Break New Ground


  • Although no cure for dystonia exists, effective screening and treatment for dystonia helps to lessen the symptoms of muscle spasms, pain, and awkward postures. The goal is to improve the quality of life and functioning of patients with the fewest side effects possible. The Bachmann-Strauss Scientific Advisory Board has announced that the Foundation will continue to fund the Anti-Dystonia Drug Discovery Program, headed by Ellen Hess, PhD, Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Emory University School of Medicine.
  • "My general goal is to understand the pathomechanisms of dystonia by examining the underlying anatomical, physiological and biochemical substrates of the disorder by creating and manipulating mouse models.
  • This strategy allows us to induce or ameliorate motor dysfunction in the context of an intact nervous system revealing potential targets for therapeutics," explained Dr. Hess. For example, her team is currently using behavioral and cellular pharmacology to understand the cellular mechanisms that give rise to hyperactivity. Continuing her Bachmann-Strauss funded research studies, the objective of Dr. Hess's research is to identify drugs that can either move directly into clinical trial or be put forward for product development by a biotechnological or pharmaceutical company.
  • The drug screening protocol created in the first phase of her research has transitioned to the testing of new compounds to alleviate dystonia symptoms in mice. Looking ahead, the Anti-Dystonia Drug Discovery Program plans to make drug screening more widely available to facilitate preclinical testing of novel anti-dystonia compounds.