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Van Andel Institute Research Symposium Showcases Latest Developments In Parkinson's Research

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Sept. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Van Andel Institute (VAI) hosts a scientific symposium September 19-20 that gathers some of the world's most noted experts in Parkinson's disease and reinforces the region's growing reputation in the field of Parkinson's research.

Grand Challenges in Parkinson's Disease features experts from a dozen nations including Australia, Malaysia and Sweden. The purpose of the event is to showcase the latest research in the field and to honor Andrew B. Singleton, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the first Jay Van Andel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Parkinson's Disease Research.

"This is truly a gathering of some of the world's greatest minds in Parkinson's disease research," said chief event organizer Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Jay Van Andel Translational Parkinson's Disease Research Laboratory and Director of Van Andel Institute's Center for Neurodegenerative Science. "We will be sharing the results of recent and ongoing research that will become the building blocks for therapies that may be commonplace a decade from now."

The event features keynote addresses by noted Parkinson's experts Ted Dawson, M.D., Ph.D., of The Johns Hopkins University, who will speak on the topic of Looking Forward to Tomorrow's Therapies for Parkinson's Disease, and Roger Barker, Ph.D., of University of Cambridge, who will speak on Matching Therapies to Patients: The Complexities of Disease Heterogeneity in Parkinson's Disease.

Dr. Andrew Singleton is best known for his work aimed at understanding the genetic causes of Parkinson's disease – work that is opening entire new fields of research.

His first well-known work described the discovery of a duplication and triplication of the alpha-synuclein gene that causes a severe, early-onset form of Parkinson's disease. Scientists already knew that a few extremely rare mutant forms of the protein were bad, but Dr. Singleton showed that too much of the normal protein also has ramifications.

One year later he led the group that was the first to identify mutations in the LRRK2 gene as a cause of familial Parkinson's disease. Occasionally new mutations arise in this gene, which can explain some of the cases of the more common, sporadic Parkinson's disease.

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