The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 18, 2013

May March fuels Geisinger research

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — May 5 marks Geisinger Medical Center’s annual March for Babies, to raise money for the March of Dimes. But how does the organization give back to Geisinger and the Danville community?

The March of Dimes promotes the health of pregnant women and newborn babies, and helps fund research to ensure their continued well-being. In 2012, Geisinger’s March for Babies raised $83,000 for the group and $61,000 in 2011.

Dr. Anne Moon, of Geisinger Medical Center’s Janet Weis Center for Research, has had two projects that received grants from the March of Dimes.

“In one way or another, they’ve been funding my research since about 2001,” she said.

Most recently, the March of Dimes gave her a grant to investigate lung-related problems in premature babies. Moon’s tests on mice have shown being born without a certain molecule creates a lung defect similar to those in premature infants.

“We’re trying to understand what that protein does normally … possibly when we understand that it will help us develop therapy for babies born with immature lungs,” she said. This lung condition is very common in premature births, which makes it of interest to the March of Dimes, Moon said.

For this project, the March of Dimes supplied Moon with $230,000 over the course of three years. She is currently the only researcher at Geisinger funded by the March of Dimes.

Her research began while she was employed at the University of Utah. She’s been working at Geisinger for the past year and a half, and her research grant transferred with her.

The March of Dimes also funded a prior research project by Moon while she was at Utah, which researched genes that help develop the heart’s conduction system in babies. Moon’s research discovered that ongoing function of that gene is required in even adult hearts to keep conduction working properly. If that gene is faulty, a person is much more likely to develop a fatal arrhythmia after a heart attack, Moon said.

She is about to publish a paper on the gene’s ability to prevent cells from becoming tumors. In the future, she wants to investigate whether this gene would be helpful in tissue regeneration.

Sign ups for Geisinger’s March for Babies, as well as those in other communities, can be done at www.MarchForBabies.org.

“The March of Dimes is very focused on their mission and I have a lot of respect for that mission,” Moon said.