NewsInspiring South Florida


Jupiter High School graduate helping in gene therapy research at UF

On a path to help people dealing with neurological diseases
Posted at 6:23 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 18:42:58-05

JUPITER, Fla. — A fun-loving baby with plenty of energy. That's how Linda Trantham describes her daughter Shandra.

"She loved to go to the beach even when she was a toddler and jump in the sea and go to Dubois Park," Linda said.

But one day that changed.

"I first noticed when we went to England on vacation and there was an indoor pool with a wave machine. And the next wave coming along and she like had a funny walk," she added.

A doctor diagnosed Shandra with Friedreich's Ataxia, known as FA, when she was 12 years old. It's an inherited rare disease that affects the nerves and muscles.


Shandra herself noticed the change.

"I really couldn't walk in a straight line anymore and I had scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine. I had chest pain with exercise," Shandra explained. " So it's estimated that there are about 15-thousand people with it in the entire world. It's like four to five thousand in the U.S."

Shandra graduated from Jupiter High School and went on to the University of Florida. She's now 24 years old and in the Ph.D. program. She's on a path to help people dealing with neurological diseases.


She said she's doing gene therapy research in a lab at UF.

"Working on gene therapy in general, kind of contributes to the project for FA, so it's really nice being in the center of all that and getting to see firsthand all of the things that are happening in the development," she said. "My hope is that science will come far enough along that we can just treat people on an individual basis, it would be really cool.

"I'm amazed and in some ways not surprised she's so inquisitive and into science," said Linda.