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Van Andel Research Institute Expands its Parkinson's Disease Program with the Addition of Two Groundbreaking Scientists

Biomedical research institute appoints two key positions, expanding its impact on neurodegenerative science

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., March 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Van Andel Research Institute's Center for Neurodegenerative Science continues to expand its research portfolio and increase its impact in the field of Parkinson's disease research. The Center recently appointed Dr. Jiyan Ma, whose laboratory studies prions, the misfolded proteins associated with many contagious neurodegenerative diseases, and Dr. Darren Moore, who studies the role of the LRRK2 gene found in hereditary Parkinson's disease. These two accomplished scientists are focused on specific, nuanced areas of Parkinson's disease research that have far-reaching implications for the way the disease is viewed and treated. 

A native of Shanghai, Ma attended Shanghai Medical College and received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  As professor and head of the Laboratory of Prion Mechanisms in Neurodegeneration at Van Andel Research Institute, Ma aims to develop disease-modifying therapeutics that combat the degenerative qualities of Parkinson's disease. His research also focuses on how misfolded proteins like alpha-synuclein are linked to the spread of Parkinson's disease in the brain, and the relationship between prions and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Ma's previous research delved into prions' role in contagious neurodegenerative diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and its human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Ma shares the emerging view that there is a connection between the way prions spread contagious neurodegenerative diseases and how they propagate Parkinson's disease within the human brain.

Like Ma, Dr. Darren Moore is studying a very significant yet specialized area of Parkinson's disease. Moore's research is centered on a gene called leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) and its role in hereditary Parkinson's disease.

Moore's research will continue to focus on investigating gene products associated with inherited forms of Parkinson's disease, including the LRRK2 as well as other novel genes associated with the disease. His lab plans on utilizing a series of unique disease modeling strategies to better understand how these specific proteins contribute to neurodegeneration in the human brain.

Since its creation in 2011, the Center has experienced impressive growth under Brundin's leadership. Ma and Moore's targeted approaches to neurodegenerative disease research will enhance the portfolio of Van Andel Research Institute's Center for Neurodegenerative Science and provide fertile ground for the development of new, innovative therapeutics for Parkinson's disease.

Van Andel Research Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI's research arm, is dedicated to studying the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. Find out more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting www.vai.org.

CONTACT: Frank Adam Brenner
Communications & Marketing Associate II
Van Andel Institute
[email protected]
Cell: 773.615.1630

SOURCE Van Andel Research Institute

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