Genetics, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases
Professor Russell Snell was Born in Fielding and raised in South Otago. He studies Physics at Otago and completed a PhD in Genetics in Cardiff Wales in 1993. His research interest is in identifying the genetic basis of disease and also the use of genetics for improving New Zealand’s economy through cow and goat milk production. Russell has a diverse range of research areas but they have a single underlying theme of utilising genetic tools including whole genome sequencing to identify disease mechanism and the development of therapies.
An area of focus has been the long term project with the Minds For Minds group including Dr Jessie Jacobsen and Prof Klaus Lehnert discovering genes and mutations in people with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. This project has been very successful with many families benefiting from a definitive diagnoses and personal explanation for the cause of the condition.
Fragile X is a very common condition that often has autism as a co-occurring characteristic. The Cure Kids funding for Russell’s group is for the making of a sheep model of Fragile X to facilitate the testing of therapies. Russell has had extensive experience making and utilising sheep models with a unique very successful Huntington’s sheep line being used by many international groups and drug companies for therapeutic testing. The Fragile X sheep line will also be made available to the large number of investigators working on potential therapies. This work will bridge the gap between testing treatments in mouse studies which unfortunately have not translated into a successful therapies and trials in people with the condition. The Cure Kids funding will establish the line and subsequent funding will be sought with international collaborators to advance the use of the animals.