Richard S Finkel

Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (90)431.75 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Neuropathologic findings within the central and peripheral nervous systems in patients with spinal muscular atrophy type I (SMA-I) were examined in relation to genetic, clinical, and electrophysiologic features. Five infants representing the full clinical spectrum of SMA-I were examined clinically for compound motor action potential amplitude and SMN2 gene copy number; morphologic analyses of postmortem central nervous system, neuromuscular junction, and muscle tissue samples were performed and SMN protein was assessed in muscle samples. The 2 clinically most severely affected patients had a single copy of the SMN2 gene; in addition to anterior horn cells, dorsal root ganglia, and thalamus, neuronal degeneration in them was widespread in the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, pigmented nuclei, brainstem, and cerebellum. Two typical SMA-I patients and a milder case each had 2 copies of the SMN2 gene and more restricted neuropathologic abnormalities. Maturation of acetylcholine receptor subunits was delayed and the neuromuscular junctions were abnormally formed in the SMA-I patients. Thus, the neuropathologic findings in human SMA-I are similar to many findings in animal models; factors other than SMN2 copy number modify disease severity. We present a pathophysiologic model for SMA-I as a protein deficiency disease affecting a neuronal network with variable clinical thresholds. Because new treatment strategies improve survival of infants with SMA-I, a better understanding of these factors will guide future treatments.
    Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology 12/2014; · 4.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The international Inherited Neuropathy Consortium (INC) was created with the goal of obtaining much needed natural history data for patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. We analysed clinical and genetic data from patients in the INC to determine the distribution of CMT subtypes and the clinical impairment associated with them. We analysed data from 1652 patients evaluated at 13 INC centres. The distribution of CMT subtypes and pathogenic genetic mutations were determined. The disease burden of all the mutations was assessed by the CMT Neuropathy Score (CMTNS) and CMT Examination Score (CMTES). 997 of the 1652 patients (60.4%) received a genetic diagnosis. The most common CMT subtypes were CMT1A/PMP22 duplication, CMT1X/GJB1 mutation, CMT2A/MFN2 mutation, CMT1B/MPZ mutation, and hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsy/PMP22 deletion. These five subtypes of CMT accounted for 89.2% of all genetically confirmed mutations. Mean CMTNS for some but not all subtypes were similar to those previously reported. Our findings confirm that large numbers of patients with a representative variety of CMT subtypes have been enrolled and that the frequency of achieving a molecular diagnosis and distribution of the CMT subtypes reflects those previously reported. Measures of severity are similar, though not identical, to results from smaller series. This study confirms that it is possible to assess patients in a uniform way between international centres, which is critical for the planned natural history study and future clinical trials. These data will provide a representative baseline for longitudinal studies of CMT. ID number NCT01193075. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to
    Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 11/2014; · 5.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disorder that results in functional deficits. However, these functional declines are often not able to be quantified in clinical trials for DMD until after age 7. In this study, we hypothesized that 1H2O T2 derived using 1H-MRS and MRI-T2 will be sensitive to muscle involvement at a young age (5-7 years) consistent with increased inflammation and muscle damage in a large cohort of DMD subjects compared to controls.
    PLoS ONE 09/2014; 9(9):e106435. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To evaluate the effects of corticosteroids on the lower extremity muscles in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) using MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).
    Neurology 08/2014; · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Prospective cohort study to characterize the clinical features and course of spinal muscular atrophy type I (SMA-I).
    Neurology 07/2014; · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Dystrophinopathy is a rare, severe muscle disorder, and nonsense mutations are found in 13% of cases. Ataluren was developed to enable ribosomal readthrough of premature stop codons in nonsense mutation (nm) genetic disorders. Methods: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study; males ≥5 years with nm-dystrophinopathy received study drug orally 3 times daily, ataluren 10, 10, 20 mg/kg (N=57), ataluren 20, 20, 40 mg/kg (N=60), or placebo (N=57) for 48 weeks. The primary endpoint was change in 6-minute walk distance (6MWD) at Week 48. Results: Ataluren was generally well tolerated. The primary endpoint favored ataluren 10, 10, 20 mg/kg vs placebo; the week 48 6MWD ∆=31.3 meters, post-hoc P=0.056. Secondary endpoints (timed function tests) showed meaningful differences between ataluren 10, 10, 20 mg/kg and placebo. Conclusions: As the first investigational new drug targeting the underlying cause of nm-dystrophinopathy, ataluren offers promise as a treatment for this orphan genetic disorder with high unmet medical need. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Muscle & Nerve 07/2014; · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: The purpose of this study was to measure and analyze motor unit number estimation (MUNE) values longitudinally in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Methods: Sixty-two children with SMA types 2 and 3 were observed prospectively for up to 42 months. Longitudinal electrophysiological data were collected, including compound motor action potential (CMAP), single motor unit action potential (SMUP), and MUNE. Results: Significant motor neuron loss and compensatory collateral reinnervation were noted at baseline. Over time, there was a significant mean increase in MUNE (4.92 units/year, P = 0.009), a mean decrease in SMUP amplitude (−6.32 μV/year, P = 0.10), and stable CMAP amplitude. Conclusions: The unexpected longitudinal results differ from findings in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis studies, perhaps indicating that compensatory processes in SMA involve new motor unit development. A better understanding of the mechanisms of motor unit decline and compensation in SMA is important for assessing novel therapeutic strategies and for providing key insights into disease pathophysiology. Muscle Nerve 49: 636–644, 2014
    Muscle & Nerve 05/2014; 49(5). · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dystroglycanopathies are a subtype of congenital muscular dystrophy of varying severity that can affect the brain and eyes, ranging from Walker-Warburg syndrome with severe brain malformation to milder congenital muscular dystrophy presentations with affected or normal cognition and later onset. Mutations in dystroglycanopathy genes affect a specific glycoepitope on α-dystroglycan; of the 14 genes implicated to date, LARGE encodes the glycosyltransferase that adds the final xylose and glucuronic acid, allowing α-dystroglycan to bind ligands, including laminin 211 and neurexin. Only 11 patients with LARGE mutations have been reported. We report the clinical, neuroimaging, and genetic features of 4 additional patients. We confirm that gross deletions and rearrangements are important mutational mechanisms for LARGE. The brain abnormalities overshadowed the initially mild muscle phenotype in all 4 patients. We present the first comprehensive postnatal neuropathology of the brain, spinal cord, and eyes of a patient with a homozygous LARGE mutation at Cys443. In this patient, polymicrogyria was the predominant cortical malformation; densely festooned polymicrogyria were overlaid by a continuous agyric surface. In view of the severity of these abnormalities, Cys443 may be a functionally important residue in the LARGE protein, whereas the mutation p.Glu509Lys of Patient 1 in this study may confer a milder phenotype. Overall, these results expand the clinical and genetic spectrum of dystroglycanopathy.
    Journal of neuropathology and experimental neurology. 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Objective To determine the feasibility and safety of respiratory muscle function testing in weak infants with a progressive neuromuscular disorder.RationaleRespiratory insufficiency is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in infants with spinal muscular atrophy type I (SMA-I).HypothesisTests of respiratory muscle strength, endurance, and breathing patterns can be performed safely in SMA-I infants. Useful data can be collected which parallels the clinical course of pulmonary function in SMA-I.Study design and subject selectionAn exploratory study of respiratory muscle function testing and breathing patterns in seven infants with SMA-I seen in our neuromuscular clinic. Measurements were made at initial study visit and, where possible, longitudinally over time.MethodologyWe measured maximal inspiratory (MIP) and transdiaphragmatic pressures, mean transdiaphragmatic pressure, airway occlusion pressure at 100 msec of inspiration, inspiratory and total respiratory cycle time, and aspects of relative thoracoabdominal motion using respiratory inductive plethysmography (RIP). The tension time index of the diaphragm and of the respiratory muscles, phase angle (Φ), phase relation during the total breath, and labored breathing index were calculated.ResultsAge at baseline study was 54–237 (median 131) days. Reliable data were obtained safely for MIP, phase angle, labored breathing index, and the invasive and non-invasive tension time indices, even in very weak infants. Data obtained corresponded to the clinical estimate of severity and predicted the need for respiratory support.Conclusions The testing employed was both safe and feasible. Measurements of MIP and RIP are easily performed tests that are well tolerated and provide clinically useful information for infants with SMA-I. Pediatr Pulmonol. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Pediatric Pulmonology 04/2014; · 2.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There is tremendous potential for genome sequencing to improve clinical diagnosis and care once it becomes routinely accessible, but this will require formalizing research methods into clinical best practices in the areas of sequence data generation, analysis, interpretation and reporting. The CLARITY Challenge was designed to spur convergence in methods for diagnosing genetic disease starting from clinical case history and genome sequencing data. DNA samples were obtained from three families with heritable genetic disorders and genomic sequence data was donated by sequencing platform vendors. The challenge was to analyze and interpret these data with the goals of identifying disease causing variants and reporting the findings in a clinically useful format. Participating contestant groups were solicited broadly, and an independent panel of judges evaluated their performance. A total of 30 international groups were engaged. The entries reveal a general convergence of practices on most elements of the analysis and interpretation process. However, even given this commonality of approach, only two groups identified the consensus candidate variants in all disease cases, demonstrating a need for consistent fine-tuning of the generally accepted methods. There was greater diversity of the final clinical report content and in the patient consenting process, demonstrating that these areas require additional exploration and standardization. The CLARITY Challenge provides a comprehensive assessment of current practices for using genome sequencing to diagnose and report genetic diseases. There is remarkable convergence in bioinformatic techniques, but medical interpretation and reporting are areas that require further development by many groups.
    Genome biology 03/2014; 15(3):R53. · 10.47 Impact Factor
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    Neuromuscular Disorders 03/2014; 24:S5. · 3.13 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Approximately 13% of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have a nonsense mutation in the dystrophin gene, resulting in a premature stop codon in the corresponding mRNA and failure to generate a functional protein. Ataluren (PTC124) enables ribosomal readthrough of premature stop codons, leading to production of full-length, functional proteins. This Phase 2a open-label, sequential dose-ranging trial recruited 38 boys with nonsense mutation DMD. The first cohort (n = 6) received ataluren three times per day at morning, midday, and evening doses of 4, 4, and 8 mg/kg; the second cohort (n = 20) was dosed at 10, 10, 20 mg/kg; and the third cohort (n = 12) was dosed at 20, 20, 40 mg/kg. Treatment duration was 28 days. Change in full-length dystrophin expression, as assessed by immunostaining in pre- and post-treatment muscle biopsy specimens, was the primary endpoint. Twenty three of 38 (61%) subjects demonstrated increases in post-treatment dystrophin expression in a quantitative analysis assessing the ratio of dystrophin/spectrin. A qualitative analysis also showed positive changes in dystrophin expression. Expression was not associated with nonsense mutation type or exon location. Ataluren trough plasma concentrations active in the mdx mouse model were consistently achieved at the mid- and high- dose levels in participants. Ataluren was generally well tolerated. Ataluren showed activity and safety in this short-term study, supporting evaluation of ataluren 10, 10, 20 mg/kg and 20, 20, 40 mg/kg in a Phase 2b, double-blind, long-term study in nonsense mutation DMD. NCT00264888.
    PLoS ONE 12/2013; 8(12):e81302. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Marinesco-Sjögren syndrome is a rare autosomal recessive multisystem disorder featuring cerebellar ataxia, early-onset cataracts, chronic myopathy, variable intellectual disability and delayed motor development. More recently, mutations in the SIL1 gene, which encodes an endoplasmic reticulum resident co-chaperone, were identified as the main cause of Marinesco-Sjögren syndrome. Here we describe the results of SIL1 mutation analysis in 62 patients presenting with early-onset ataxia, cataracts and myopathy or combinations of at least two of these. We obtained a mutation detection rate of 60% (15/25) among patients with the characteristic Marinesco-Sjögren syndrome triad (ataxia, cataracts, myopathy) whereas the detection rate in the group of patients with more variable phenotypic presentation was below 3% (1/37). We report 16 unrelated families with a total of 19 different SIL1 mutations. Among these mutations are 15 previously unreported changes, including single- and multi-exon deletions. Based on data from our screening cohort and data compiled from the literature we found that SIL1 mutations are invariably associated with the combination of a cerebellar syndrome and chronic myopathy. Cataracts were observed in all patients beyond the age of 7 years, but might be missing in infants. Six patients with SIL1 mutations had no intellectual disability, extending the known wide range of cognitive capabilities in Marinesco-Sjögren syndrome to include normal intelligence. Modestly constant features were somatic growth retardation, skeletal abnormalities and pyramidal tract signs. Examination of mutant SIL1 expression in cultured patient lymphoblasts suggested that SIL1 mutations result in severely reduced SIL1 protein levels irrespective of the type and position of mutations. Our data broaden the SIL1 mutation spectrum and confirm that SIL1 is the major Marinesco-Sjögren syndrome gene. SIL1 patients usually present with the characteristic triad but cataracts might be missing in young children. As cognitive impairment is not obligatory, patients without intellectual disability but a Marinesco-Sjögren syndrome-compatible phenotype should receive SIL1 mutation analysis. Despite allelic heterogeneity and many families with private mutations, the phenotype related to SIL1 mutations is relatively homogenous. Based on SIL1 expression studies we speculate that this may arise from a uniform effect of different mutations on protein expression.
    Brain 10/2013; · 10.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Long-term studies of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease across the entire lifespan require stable endpoints that measure the same underlying construct (e.g., disability). The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between the CMT Pediatric Scale (CMTPedS) and the adult CMT Neuropathy Score (CMTNSv2) in 203 children, adolescents, and young adults with CMT. There was a moderate curvilinear correlation between the CMTPedS and the CMTNSv2 (Spearman's rho ρ = 0.716, p < 0.0001), although there appears to be a floor effect of the CMTNSv2 in patients with a milder CMT phenotype. Univariate analyses indicate that the relationship between the CMTPedS and CMTNSv2 scores improves with worsening disease severity and advancing age. Although one universal scale throughout life would be ideal, our data supports the transition from the CMTPedS in childhood to the CMTNSv2 in adulthood as a continuum of measuring lifelong disability in patients with CMT.
    Journal of the Peripheral Nervous System 06/2013; 18(2):177-80. · 2.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose:To validate a multicenter protocol that examines lower extremity skeletal muscles of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) by using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and MR spectroscopy in terms of reproducibility of these measurements within and across centers.Materials and Methods:This HIPAA-compliant study was approved by the institutional review boards of all participating centers, and informed consent was obtained from each participant or a guardian. Standardized procedures with MR operator training and quality assurance assessments were implemented, and data were acquired at three centers by using different 3-T MR imaging instruments. Measures of maximal cross-sectional area (CSAmax), transverse relaxation time constant (T2), and lipid fraction were compared among centers in two-compartment coaxial phantoms and in two unaffected adult subjects who visited each center. Also, repeat MR measures were acquired twice on separate days in 30 boys with DMD (10 per center) and 10 unaffected boys. Coefficients of variation (CVs) were computed to examine the repeated-measure variabilities within and across centers.Results:CSAmax, T2 from MR imaging and MR spectroscopy, and lipid fraction were consistent across centers in the phantom (CV, <3%) and in the adult subjects who traveled to each site (CV, 2%-7%). High day-to-day reproducibility in MR measures was observed in boys with DMD (CSAmax, CV = 3.7% [25th percentile, 1.3%; 75th percentile, 5.1%]; contractile area, CV = 4.2% [25th percentile, 0.8%; 75th percentile, 4.9%]; MR imaging T2, CV = 3.1% [25th percentile, 1.2%; 75th percentile, 4.7%]; MR spectroscopy T2, CV = 3.9% [25th percentile, 1.5%; 75th percentile, 5.1%]; and lipid fraction, CV = 4.7% [25th percentile, 1.0%; 75th percentile, 5.3%]).Conclusion:The MR protocol implemented in this multicenter study achieved highly reproducible measures of lower extremity muscles across centers and from day to day in ambulatory boys with DMD.© RSNA, 2013Supplemental material:
    Radiology 05/2013; · 6.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: To report a series of 11 patients on the severe end of the spectrum of ryanodine receptor 1 (RYR1) gene-related myopathy, in order to expand the clinical, histologic, and genetic heterogeneity associated with this group of patients. METHODS: Eleven patients evaluated in the neonatal period with severe neonatal-onset RYR1-associated myopathy confirmed by genetic testing were ascertained. Clinical features, molecular testing results, muscle imaging, and muscle histology are reviewed. RESULTS: Clinical features associated with the severe neonatal presentation of RYR1-associated myopathy included decreased fetal movement, hypotonia, poor feeding, respiratory involvement, arthrogryposis, and ophthalmoplegia in 3 patients, and femur fractures or hip dislocation at birth. Four patients had dominant RYR1 mutations, and 7 had recessive RYR1 mutations. One patient had a cleft palate, and another a congenital rigid spine phenotype-findings not previously described in the literature in patients with early-onset RYR1 mutations. Six patients who underwent muscle ultrasound showed relative sparing of the rectus femoris muscle. Histologically, all patients with dominant mutations had classic central cores on muscle biopsy. Patients with recessive mutations showed great histologic heterogeneity, including fibrosis, variation in fiber size, skewed fiber typing, very small fibers, and nuclear internalization with or without ill-defined cores. CONCLUSIONS: This series confirms and expands the clinical and histologic variability associated with severe congenital RYR1-associated myopathy. Both dominant and recessive mutations of the RYR1 gene can result in a severe neonatal-onset phenotype, but more clinical and histologic heterogeneity has been seen in those with recessive RYR1 gene mutations. Central cores are not obligatory histologic features in recessive RYR1 mutations. Sparing of the rectus femoris muscle on imaging should prompt evaluation for RYR1-associated myopathy in the appropriate clinical context.
    Neurology 04/2013; · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) presents challenges in (i) monitoring disease activity and predicting progression, (ii) designing trials that allow rapid assessment of candidate therapies, and (iii) understanding molecular causes and consequences of the disease. Validated biomarkers of SMA motor and non-motor function would offer utility in addressing these challenges. Our objectives were (i) to discover additional markers from the Biomarkers for SMA (BforSMA) study using an immunoassay platform, and (ii) to validate the putative biomarkers in an independent cohort of SMA patients collected from a multi-site natural history study (NHS). BforSMA study plasma samples (N = 129) were analyzed by immunoassay to identify new analytes correlating to SMA motor function. These immunoassays included the strongest candidate biomarkers identified previously by chromatography. We selected 35 biomarkers to validate in an independent cohort SMA type 1, 2, and 3 samples (N = 158) from an SMA NHS. The putative biomarkers were tested for association to multiple motor scales and to pulmonary function, neurophysiology, strength, and quality of life measures. We implemented a Tobit model to predict SMA motor function scores. 12 of the 35 putative SMA biomarkers were significantly associated (p<0.05) with motor function, with a 13(th) analyte being nearly significant. Several other analytes associated with non-motor SMA outcome measures. From these 35 biomarkers, 27 analytes were selected for inclusion in a commercial panel (SMA-MAP) for association with motor and other functional measures. Discovery and validation using independent cohorts yielded a set of SMA biomarkers significantly associated with motor function and other measures of SMA disease activity. A commercial SMA-MAP biomarker panel was generated for further testing in other SMA collections and interventional trials. Future work includes evaluating the panel in other neuromuscular diseases, for pharmacodynamic responsiveness to experimental SMA therapies, and for predicting functional changes over time in SMA patients.
    PLoS ONE 04/2013; 8(4):e60113. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the most common lethal recessive disease in childhood, and there is currently no effective treatment to halt disease progression. The translation of scientific advances into effective therapies is hampered by major roadblocks in clinical trials, including the complex regulatory environment in Europe, variations in standards of care, patient ascertainment and enrolment, a narrow therapeutic window and a lack of biomarkers of efficacy. In this context, SMA-Europe organized its first international workshop in July 2012 in Rome, gathering 34 scientists, clinicians and representatives of patient organizations to establish recommendations for improving clinical trials for SMAa.
    Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 03/2013; 8(1):44. · 3.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Of 151 youth with type 1 diabetes who were screened for peripheral neuropathy, and received nerve conduction studies, 11% were diagnosed with Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN). DPN can occur in young children, with short diabetes duration, and good diabetes control. National guidelines for screening children for DPN should be developed.
    Diabetes research and clinical practice 02/2013; · 2.74 Impact Factor
  • Richard S. Finkel
    Neuromuscular Disorders 12/2012; 22(12):1105–1106. · 3.13 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
431.75 Total Impact Points


  • 2014
    • Boston Children's Hospital
      • Department of Neurology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2002–2014
    • The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
      • • Department of Physical Therapy
      • • Department of Neurology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2013
    • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2012–2013
    • Nemours
      Jacksonville, Florida, United States
    • University of Central Florida
      Orlando, Florida, United States
    • Children's Hospital at Westmead
      Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    • University of Florida
      • Department of Physical Therapy
      Gainesville, FL, United States
    • University of Sydney
      • Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health
      Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2011–2012
    • Nationwide Children's Hospital
      • Center for Gene Therapy
      Columbus, OH, United States
  • 2007–2011
    • Columbia University
      • Department of Neurology
      New York City, NY, United States
  • 2010
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
      • National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
      Druid Hills, GA, United States
  • 2009
    • Detroit Medical Center
      • Division of Neurology
      Detroit, Michigan, United States
    • University of Utah
      • Department of Human Genetics
      Salt Lake City, UT, United States