Published October 26, 2011
Before actor Michael J. Fox spoke at UB Oct. 19, two faculty from the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences discussed Parkinson’s disease—the first-ever research lecture complementing a talk in the university’s Distinguished Speakers Series.
The free public lecture preceded the talk by Fox—widely considered the public face of Parkinson’s—in Alumni Arena.
Feng, whose work is funded in part by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, is using stem cells to try to find the causes of and, ultimately, the cure for the disorder.
He discussed how a malfunction in the nerve cells that produce dopamine leads to Parkinson’s trademark tremors and rigidity.
Guttoso is researching ways to determine who will develop Parkinson’s long before symptoms arise, so that preventive measures can be taken.
“By the time of the first diagnosis, most patients have lost 60 percent of their dopamine cells. But why couldn’t we protect the other 40 percent?” said Guttoso, director of the Jacobs Neurological Institute’s Movement Disorders & Parkinson’s Disease Center.
Researchers are also studying how to keep people functional longer during the early stage of Parkinson’s, when they are still able to perform normal daily activities, Guttoso added.
He pointed to anecdotal evidence that 20 to 30 minutes of daily vigorous aerobic exercise can slow the disorder’s progression for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s and may protect healthy people from developing it.
The lecture was sponsored by Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine of Biomedical Sciences, and Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, vice provost for strategic initiatives.
Organizers expect it to be the first of many UB research lectures that dovetail with topics in the Distinguished Speakers Series.