Double Helix Dash to benefit childhood genetic research at HudsonAlpha

Registration is now open for HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s annual Double Helix Dash 5K and one-mile fun run. In its seventh year, the Double Helix Dash raises funds and awareness for HudsonAlpha’s childhood genetic disorders research.

This unique race, which will take place on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 3, winds through the double helix pathway at McMillian Park on the HudsonAlpha campus. The pathway, built to mimic the structure of DNA, is the world’s largest model of the double helix.

HudsonAlpha scientists will discuss the latest advances in childhood genetic disorders research, including the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research, or CSER, project. CSER provides the means for DNA sequencing to identify the genetic causes of undiagnosed conditions for children such as Jessi Watts of Decatur, Ala.

Jessi, who will be this year’s Double Helix Dash childhood champion, was diagnosed with Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome is a neurodegenerative disorder that is almost exclusively seen in girls and affects about 1 in 10,000 worldwide.

“Through CSER, we have identified several patients affected with Rett syndrome,” said Greg Cooper, PhD, HudsonAlpha faculty investigator. “In this population, a molecular diagnosis can lead to more effective clinical management and prognostic accuracy.”

Jessi spent ten years taking seizure drugs that she did not need until HudsonAlpha provided a more precise, clinical diagnosis of Rett syndrome in 2014.

“Because of the diagnosis, we are no longer throwing punches in the dark and fighting this creature that was slowly stealing our daughter,” said Dana Watts, Jessi’s mother. “Jessi totally understands that her life is better thanks to HudsonAlpha and we are so thankful for the CSER project.”

The Double Helix Dash is presented by HudsonAlpha and the Huntsville Track Club and Demetria McClenton from WAAY-TV is the emcee. To learn more and register, visit