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MSU becoming center of excellence for Parkinson's research

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. A team of researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Cincinnati have been awarded a $6.2 million Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson's disease grant.

The grant, from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, makes MSU's College of Human Medicine a major player in research of the degenerative disease.

Two new MSU researchers, Jack Lipton, Ph.D., and Caryl E. Sortwell, Ph.D., will share nearly half of the award with investigators at the University of Cincinnati. The process of transferring control of the Udall Center to MSU will begin next summer when center Director Timothy Collier, PhD., and Kathy Steece-Collier, Ph.D., from the University of Cincinnati join Lipton, Sortwell and the rest of the research team at MSU's College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids.

The MSU scientists will conduct their Parkinson's disease research in the new Van Andel Institute Phase II expansion. The recruitment of the research team was made possible by College of Human Medicine partners Van Andel Institute, Spectrum Health and Saint Mary's Health Care.

"The Udall Center of Excellence designation brought to MSU by our new Parkinson's disease research cluster speaks to the caliber of researchers we are able to recruit to Grand Rapids because of our unique health science partnerships," said Marsha Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine. "By the time the entire Parkinson's research group and their families are relocated to Grand Rapids, we'll have a team of eight investigators at the Udall Center."

The center investigators have varied skills and backgrounds in research, yet they operate as a cohesive team, Rappley said. The team-based approach to science is one of the great strengths of the research group.

"The skills of our group span from subcellular aspects of molecular biology through behavioral changes in whole organisms" Lipton said. "Having such a varied skill set allows us to attack research problems at many different levels. If we still can't solve a problem, we will find people who can and add them to our team."

Sortwell's research examines how one of the more promising Parkinson's therapies, deep brain stimulation, relieves symptoms and how the procedure may slow the progress of the disease.

Other projects that are part of the center will examine how:

  • The brain's anatomy changes as the disease progresses and how certain drug therapies can reduce these changes and in turn reduce movement disorders;
  • Depression may exacerbate the progress of the disease;
  • How undifferentiated stem cells might be used to combat neurodegeneration.

Lipton, as the analytical core director, will coordinate neurochemical, protein and gene expression studies across all projects to determine whether common changes are evident across the multidisciplinary study.

A Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence is the most coveted award among national centers that conduct Parkinson's disease research. The announcement of the center was part of the College of Human Medicine's 2009 Gala celebration, which honored philanthropists Richard and Helen DeVos as "Pillars of Medicine" for their contributions to the health science community in Grand Rapids.


Contact: Jason Cody
Michigan State University

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