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.
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.”
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 Feb. 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 Feb. 24.