Alexander Chamessian, MD, PhD, has been selected as a recipient of an American Neuromuscular Foundation (ANF) Development Grant. The ANF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and electrodiagnostic research and medicine. When you donate to the ANF, 100% of your gift is exclusively used to fund researchers like Dr. Chamessian, or their education. This is made possible by the AANEM, which covers all of the ANF’s administrative costs.
Dr. Chamessian’s project is called “Determining the Pathogenicity of Autoantibodies in Idiopathic Small Fiber Neuropathy.” Small fiber neuropathy (SFN) is a group of disorders that involves preferential damage to and dysfunction of small diameter sensory and autonomic nerve fibers.
“The symptoms of SFN can be very distressing and disabling to patients,” said Dr. Chamessian. “The principal symptom of SFN is pain characterized as burning, stabbing, electric shocks, or pins-and-needles. This pain can be constant and often intensifies at night.”
There are many known causes of SFN, including diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, and certain autoimmune diseases. However, in many patients, the cause of SFN is never identified. Those cases are labeled “idiopathic” or “cryptogenic,” meaning the cause is unknown.
“Some patients with idiopathic SFN possess distinctive autoantibodies that are seldom present in people without neuropathy,” Dr. Chamessian said. “The clinical significance of these autoantibodies is unclear. We know these molecules are abnormal, but we do not know whether they are cause or effect for SFN in these individuals.”
The goal of Dr. Chamessian’s research project is to determine the role of some of the SFN-associated autoantibodies.
“The findings from this work could lead to new insights about how and why some cases of SFN develop, and hopefully lead to new directions in the treatment of people suffering from this terrible disease,” said Dr. Chamessian.
Dr. Chamessian believes the ANF Development Grant will play a pivotal role in shaping his future as a physician-scientist, and the future of SFN patients.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity afforded to me by the American Neuromuscular Foundation, and I am confident that this award will propel my career in the coming years,” he said. “I sincerely believe that our work will ultimately lead to real, substantial benefits to patients with SFN, which makes all the hard work ahead totally worth it.”
Dr. Chamessian is a resident physician-scientist in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Robert Gereau, PhD at the Washington University Pain Center. He is a graduate of the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke University School of Medicine.