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Vitaly A. Klyachko, PhD

Vitaly A. Klyachko, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology and physiology and of biomedical engineering, is recognized for his influential research on synaptic function and its defects in Fragile X syndrome, the leading inherited cause of mental disability and autism.

Fragile X syndrome is caused by a loss of a single protein, called FMRP. Klyachko’s work elucidates the role of FMRP in regulating signal transmissions between neurons in the brain. Unlike nearly all other researchers in this area, who focus on the mechanisms of receiving nerve signals, Klyachko studies the process of sending signals.

Working in a mouse model of fragile X, he has demonstrated that lack of FMRP leads to overly active nerve cell transmissions, which may impair recipient cells’ ability to attend to important brain signals and may at least in part explain the attention difficulties seen in Fragile X and autism. His work, colleagues say, has brought a new perspective to understanding the cellular basis of Fragile X. It also points to several potential therapeutic targets that his lab hopes to pursue.

Klyachko has also developed a novel imaging approach that permits studies of dynamic processes within individual synapses with nanometer resolution. This work led to fundamental new insights into the role of cytoskeleton in regulating synaptic function. In five years, he has published nine papers in leading journals, including the Journal of Neuroscience and Neuron.

Klyachko received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Moscow State University in 1997 and 1998, respectively. He earned his doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2002 and performed postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute. He joined the Washington University faculty in 2008. He is a recipient of numerous national awards including the prestigious Klingenstein Award in Neurosciences.

Published: 01/27/2014