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Greenwood Genetic Center’s Heather Flanagan-Steet Awarded $100,000 Grant from National MPS Society

The National MPS Society has awarded a $100,000 grant to Heather Flanagan-Steet, PhD, Director of Functional Studies at the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC). Flanagan-Steet will lead the two-year project designed to better understand the biology of skeletal disorders in patients with these rare disorders and identify new therapies.

Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS), as a group, affect approximately 1 in 25,000 individuals. These progressive diseases cause widespread damage throughout the body, including the heart, bones, joints, respiratory system and central nervous system, leading to a shortened lifespan. Skeletal abnormalities are a common feature of MPS disorders and can lead to pain, impaired growth, and limited mobility.

Flanagan-Steet’s work will involve the use of zebrafish models of three MPS disorders, MPS II (Hunter syndrome), MPS IVA (Morquio syndrome), and ML II (I-cell disease), to pinpoint common pathways involved in the bone and cartilage disease seen in patients with MPS.

“Because zebrafish and humans share 70% of the same DNA, we can mimic MPS in the zebrafish, allowing us to study how the patient mutations actually cause the clinical features of these disorders,” said Flanagan-Steet. “The fish provide a really powerful tool both to help us understand exactly how these skeletal issues develop and then to assess which treatments may improve or prevent those issues. By directly comparing the mechanisms in these three different disease models, we hope to identify therapeutic approaches that may benefit multiple diseases.”

The MPS Society provides support resources for families as well as funding for research into this group of disorders which can affect the health, development, quality of life, and lifespan of affected individuals. GGC has a long-standing interest in MPS disorders including providing clinical care, diagnostic testing, and research for many of these rare conditions.

“We are so grateful for the support of the MPS Society, an organization led by families who are dedicated to raising awareness, supporting research, and ultimately finding cures for these disorders,” said Flanagan-Steet. “We are excited to advance this work and contribute to improving the quality of life for all individuals and families impacted by MPS disorders.”


About the MPS Society

The National MPS Society exists to cure, support, and advocate for MPS and ML. Their mission serves individuals, families, and friends affected by Mucopolysaccharidoses and Mucolipidosis through supporting research, supporting families, and increasing public and professional awareness. For more information on MPS and ML, please visit www.mpssociety.org.

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Tamia Sumpter

Tamia is a driven senior undergraduate Bioengineering student currently enrolled at Clemson University. With a strong foundation in her field, she has honed her skills through hands-on experience in research and development at Eli Lilly & Company. During her time in the ADME department, Tamia contributed significantly by working on siRNAs and their applications in finding In Vitro-In Vivo Correlation (IVIVC). Looking ahead, Tamia has set her sights on a promising career in law. She aspires to specialize in Intellectual Property Law, with a particular focus on serving as in-house counsel for leading medical device or pharmaceutical companies. Her enthusiasm for this role is palpable as she prepares to embark on her legal journey! She is also a proud member of the Omicron Phi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., PEER Mentor for Clemson PEER/WiSE, and currently serves as the President of Clemson Bioengineering Organization (CBO). With her unique blend of scientific knowledge and legal interests, Tamia is poised to make a meaningful impact in the healthcare and life sciences industries.