Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center
The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) at Children’s National Medical Center conducts multidisciplinary, translational, clinical and community research in intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Our goals are to develop a better understanding of the causes underlying these conditions, develop innovative therapies, and prevent or ameliorate them, thereby permitting each child to achieve his full physical and intellectual potential.
Funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and directed by principal investigator Vittorio Gallo, PhD, the IDDRC at Children’s National focuses on the genetic, cellular, developmental and psychological causes of intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
Children’s IDDRC is focused on multidisciplinary molecular, cellular and functional studies on brain development and pathology. These studies are continuously integrated with the analysis of the molecular basis of genetic diseases causing intellectual and developmental disabilities and their behavioral manifestations. The specific objectives of the IDDRC are to:
Intellectual and developmental disabilities encompass a broad range of childhood disorders that lead to deficits in cognitive, motor and/or behavioral function. As a group, these disorders affect approximately 15 percent of children, yet we know little of their neurological, neurobehavioral or genetic underpinnings.
New molecular, biological, genetic, and neurobehavioral/neuroimaging approaches to the fundamental questions of ontogenesis of the nervous system have recently improved our understanding of the origin and pathophysiology of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders. Human and animal genome decoding has opened up new opportunities for studying these disorders in combination with cellular and functional approaches.
Technologies have emerged to assay all functionally significant polymorphisms in an individual with a single test. Proteomic profiling approaches have begun to parallel the sensitivity of mRNA profiling, and advanced electrophysiological and imaging techniques allow the functional analysis of distinct genetic phenotypes.
Taken together, these approaches demonstrate a clear link between dysregulation of basic brain development and neurodevelopmental disorders, and provide clear evidence of the need for a multidisciplinary approach to intellectual and developmental disabilities research. This involves highly-specialized, integrated teams of developmental neuroscientists, geneticists, child neurologists, developmental pediatricians, pediatricians, child psychologists, and neuropsychologists. These teams work together to elucidate the physiological basis of brain malformations in children and the cellular/molecular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Children’s IDDRC program reflects this approach, as it includes investigators who synergize to establish multidisciplinary research programs involving distinct, but complementary experimental approaches focused on different areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities research.
The IDDRC program at Children's has provided a platform for continuous and exponential growth of three major research areas, including neuroscience, genetics, and behavioral sciences. This has resulted in a four-fold increase in the total number of IDDRC investigators (currently more than 90) from the establishment of this program to present.
Children’s IDDRC provides access to state-of-the-art and cost effective core research expertise, services and equipment in all areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities research. The broad range of new technologies offered through our five core services provides us with the unique ability to make advanced experimental approaches available to our investigators. Molecular genetic/proteomic, cellular imaging, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological/behavioral techniques are expensive and often inaccessible to individually-funded investigators. These methods require a comprehensive knowledge of up-and-coming scientific advances as well as complex and time-consuming training.
IDDRC Core Services
The IDDRC supports eight areas of multidisciplinary and translational intellectual and developmental disabilities research through its five scientific cores, which are used by more than 90 NIH-funded investigators. These scientists, at Children’s, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and Howard University investigate how the healthy brain develops and acquires mature functions, as well as disorders that limit growth and cause damage to the brain.
All IDDRC academic activities at Children’s contribute to the training of the next generation of IDDR investigators. These include:
Recruitment of New Investigators
At present Children’s IDDRC only services federally funded (NIH/NSF/DOD) grants. Junior faculty members who are applying for their first federal grant but are not yet funded are the only potential exceptions. New investigators are accepted into the IDDRC through a two-step process:
Other National IDDRC Programs & Sponsors
For more information related to the IDDRC, contact Vittorio Gallo, PhD.