Pioneer Kennedy Krieger Scientist Has No Intention of Slowing Down

April 16, 2003
Hugo Moser, M.D. continues career past 50-year mark

Baltimore, MD - Most weekdays, world-renowned Neurogenetiscist Dr. Hugo Moser can be found reading over lab reports or meeting with patients in his 5th floor office at Kennedy Krieger Institute. At 76 years old, the researcher has no plans for retirement, no desire to slow down. In fact, in March, he was awarded another major medical grant from the National Institutes of Health, which will extend his important research on adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) another five years.

After more than 50 years of research and treatment in the field of Neurology, Dr. Moser looks back on his esteemed career knowing that he has made significant contributions to the betterment of diagnosis and treatment for individuals with ALD, a X-linked genetic disease that causes the breakdown of bodily function in young boys. His goal continues to be to find better treatments, and eventually a cure, for this debilitating disease. His work, he says, gives him purpose in his life.

"My work is not supposed to be psycho-therapy for me, but it is," Dr. Moser says. "If I can remain productive in my work and help families in some way, then the longevity of my career was worth all of the challenges over the years."

Kennedy Krieger Institute will honor Dr. Moser and his wife, Ann, on April 30 for their commitment to improving the lives of children with rare disabilities. A 30-minute program will begin at 6:45 p.m. in the lobby of Kennedy Krieger's main building at 707 N. Broadway.

"Dr, Moser's commitment to the children we treat here at Kennedy Krieger Institute shows through in all aspects of his work," says Dr. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute. "From research to patient care, he is a pioneer in this field." Dr. Moser's career began in the late 1940s when he was an intern in Internal Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. He took two years off to serve in the Korean War providing medical assistance to soldiers. Upon his return, he received an advanced degree in biological chemistry at Harvard to prepare himself for a life of research. After extensive training in the field of neurology, he began researching brain lipids. With the guidance of his mentors in the field, he became interested in leukodystrophies. It was in his first lab where he met his wife of nearly 40 years, Ann.

In 1976, Dr. Moser, along with other prominent scientists in the field, moved to Baltimore and to Kennedy Krieger Institute where they began to work specifically on ALD. Together, the Mosers developed the first diagnostic test for ALD, and today's treatments, including bone marrow transplant and Lorenzo's Oil therapy, have been tested in his famous lab.

"Because there are so many patients, so many families, and so many human problems, the study of adrenoleukodystrophy has become my obsession," he says.

Even after over 50 years of working with children with developmental disabilities, Dr. Moser still finds it difficult to not become personally involved with the families. "It's a very hard balance between hype and hope," says Dr. Moser. "If you are honest about what you can do, you must give hope to the families."

The most recent grant solidifies Dr. Moser's work with the F.M. Kirby Center for Functional Brain Imaging, the Motion Analysis Lab and the Genetics Lab at Kennedy Krieger to create a comprehensive evaluation process of treatments for ALD. Each of these laboratories will play a vital role in the evaluation of treatments, allowing researchers to better determine the efficacy.

"In the past, it's taken five to10 years to evaluate treatment, and that might be too late," explains Dr. Moser. "With these resources, you can pursue what is promising and let go of what is not."

ALD, a rare disorder affecting one in 17,000 people worldwide, causes the breakdown of myelin, the fatty substance that acts as insulating material around nerve fibers. Symptoms typically appear by age 5 or 6, and in the worst cases, rapid neurological deterioration ensues, including lost verbal communication, loss of strength and coordination and, eventually, complete breakdown of bodily function.

Kennedy Krieger Institute is dedicated to helping children and adolescents with disabilities resulting from disorders of the brain achieve their potential and participate as fully as possible in family, community and school life.

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