MGCCC Gene Fair to highlight individuals with rare genetic disorders

The Jackson County Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is hosting its biannual Gene Fair April 19-24.  The fair’s spotlight is on rare diseases. 

Biology students at the Gautier campus will attend a special presentation on Tuesday, April 24, that will feature Ocean Springs residents Tom and Amber Olsen and their 4-year-old daughter Willow, the only person in Mississippi with the rare disorder Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency (MSD). The presentation will begin at 9 a.m. in the campus Fine Arts Auditorium. MSD Foundation officials will also be on hand for the presentation.

MSD currently has no cure. For students, seeing the effects of such a disease in an innocent little girl is life changing.  Just last year, Willow was running around and interacting with her sisters and parents, and now she is confined to a small wheelchair.

“The sliver of light in this situation is that there is a gene-therapy treatment that looks promising for MSD patients,” said Lynn Zimmerman, science instructor at the Jackson County Campus. “The problem is without funding, the treatment stays in the lab. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t vested in funding treatments for rare disorders, so that task falls onto the shoulders of parents and communities of individuals involved in the lives of these patients.  While treatment may not make it to the manufacturing phase in time for Willow to receive it, the family fights to give her that chance, regardless of how small, and for others with rare genetic disorders.”

For information about the Gene Fair, contact Zimmerman at madeline.zimmerman@mgccc.edu or 228-497-7695.

  • WHO: Tom and Amber Olsen, their 4-year-old daughter Willow, and officials from the Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency (MSD) Foundation will speak to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College biology students at the Jackson County Campus in Gautier.
  • WHAT: The lecture is part of the campus’s biannual Gene Fair, which will be held through April 24.
  • WHEN: The lecture will begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24. It is the culmination of the four-day Gene Fair.
  • WHERE: The lecture will take place in the Fine Arts Auditorium of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus in Gautier.
  • WHY: Each semester, biology students at the campus study rare genetic diseases/disorders and how gene therapy works. As part of that unit, the biannual Gene Fair showcases the students’ research on the diseases and disorders.
Kathy McAdams is an award-winning journalist who has worked at weekly newspapers in Mississippi and the Press-Register in Mobile, Ala. A native of Gulfport, McAdams attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, William Carey University, the University of South Alabama and The University of Southern Mississippi. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and journalism and a master's degree in education and English. She has worked at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College since 2005.

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