Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
May 28, 1999


Patients with Parkinson's disease can be encouraged that scientists will make substantial progress in the next few years in unraveling the causes of Parkinson's disease and finding new ways to diagnose and treat this disorder, thanks to added muscle from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Faculty at the Emory University School of Medicine will continue to be at the forefront of that effort as one of the three top universities recently awarded $7.5 million to fund Parkinson's Disease Research Centers of Excellence: Emory, Johns Hopkins and Harvard (Massachusetts General Hospital).

At Emory, the research team will be led by department of neurology Chairman. Mahlon DeLong, M.D., a leading, international authority on movement disorders.The center will provide state-of-the-art research and multidisciplinary training for young scientists to research Parkinson's disease and related disorders.

Parkinson's disease, a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting the basal ganglia region of the brain, afflicts more than one million individuals in the United States.

Over the past decade, remarkable progress has occurred in understanding the basis of Parkinson's and in developing new treatments for this disorder. For instance, a renaissance in surgical interventions for Parkinson's disease has occurred, in part due to experimental studies carried out by Dr. DeLong and his colleagues. Pallidotomy, a procedure introduced and later abandoned in the '50s, has now, in a more refined form, become a widely accepted procedure for advanced, medically intractable Parkinson's disease. More recently, a less invasive and more easily controlled treatment ­ deep brain stimulation -- has been introduced. Research at the Emory center is focused on five therapeutically relevant goals, each headed up by a key individual: 1) Development of a better animal model of Parkinson's disease (Dr. Timothy Greenamyre); 2) testing of proposed physiologic mechanisms underlying Parkinson's (Dr. Scott Grafton); 3) determining the mechanism of action of deep brain stimulation (Dr. Jerry Vitek); 4) elucidating the therapeutic and potentially neuroprotective effects of stimulation (Dr. Thomas Wichmann); and developing better drug therapies for Parkinson's (Dr. Jeffrey Conn).

Research is carried out in multiple departments and centers at Emory including neurology, anatomy/cell biology, pharmacology, nuclear medicine, Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center and Emory's PET (positron emission tomography) Center.