June 20, 2002

Fight Against Mitochondrial Disease Continues
With 4 Annual UCSD Christini Fund Golf Tournament

Padres Pitcher Trevor Hoffman is Honorary Chairman of July 26th Event

Newly renovated Torrey Pines South Golf Course is the venue of this year's UCSD Christini Fund Golf Tournament, scheduled for Friday, July 26, 2002. Padres pitcher Trevor Hoffman is honorary chairman of this charity tournament named for Christine Shimizu, a toddler who lost her battle to mitochondrial disease shortly after her second birthday. (Christini was her nickname.) By playing in the UCSD Christini Fund Golf Tournament, participants help further research into a disease that currently has no cure, yet is as common as childhood cancer.

Proceeds from the golf tournament will support research at UCSD's Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Center (MMDC), one of a handful of centers in the United State's dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with mitochondrial disease.

Only in recent years have physicians and the public begun to learn about the devastation and death that results from mitochondrial disease. Responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and growth, the tiny cellular structures called mitochondria are also essential for metabolic functions that help each tissue perform its role in the day-to-day operation of the body. When mitochondria become dysfunctional, less and less energy is generated within the cell, resulting in a cascade of cell injury and organ system failure.

According to Richard Haas, M.D. and Robert Naviaux, M.D., MMDC co-directors, there are hundreds of inherited and acquired mitochondrial disorders. Depending upon which cells are affected, symptoms may include loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, gastrointestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, breathing problems, seizures, visual/hearing problems, lactic acidosis, developmental delays and susceptibility to infection.

Nearly 4,000 children are born each year with mitochondrial disease, and the mortality for the most severe forms of mitochondrial disease in childhood is up to 50 percent per year. Some children born with the disease do not show symptoms until adulthood when they become disabled and die. Many diseases of aging, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes and heart disease are thought to involve mitochondrial defects.

This year, golfers can participate in the Fourth Annual UCSD Christini Fund Golf Tournament with a donation of $275 per person or $1,000 per foursome. The event includes a day of golf, contests, lunch, gifts, prizes, dinner, opportunity drawings and live and silent auctions. The tournament is a scramble format with a 1 p.m. shotgun start at Torrey Pines South Golf Course. More information is available from Debbie Shimizu at (858) 350-6343.

Every year the Christini Fund committee dedicates the Christini tournament to a child suffering from mitochondrial disease. This year's tournament is dedicated to Connor Biggerstaff, a third grader in Ventura, California. Connor has Leigh's Syndrome with COX deficiency, and for over three years he has received Triacetyluridine (TAU), a drug first proposed and studied for the treatment of mitochondrial disease by Naviaux, with help from the Christini Fund.

"Thanks in large part to TAU and a drug called DCA, Connor is doing well," said Shimizu, founder of the Christini Fund. "Although he is wheelchair-bound and has some vision problems, he represents the hope made possible by Christini Fund supporters. This is what makes the Christini Fund Golf Tournament special those participating in this event can see from year to year that their support directly affects tangible results."

With financial support from the Christini Fund, UCSD's mitochondrial disease research scientists have been able to clone and study three genes used by cells to make mitochondrial DNA, map a mutation associated with a mitochondrial disease called Alpers syndrome, and have published on an important link between infection and the progression of mitochondrial diseases like Leigh Syndrome. In addition, a major trial of CoEnzyme Q10 in the treatment of Parkinson disease was completed with the assistance of the Mitochondrial Disease Laboratory of the MMDC, supported in part by the UCSD Christini Fund.

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Media Contacts:
Debbie Shimizu
Christini Fund, Founder
858-350-5343

Sue Pondrom (UCSD)
619-543-6163

UCSD Health Sciences Communications HealthBeat: http://health.ucsd.edu/news/