Being the product of parents who were born and raised in the great state of Alabama, has always made me proud of my southern roots. Living in the beautiful state of Alabama after high school, attending college and working there, I really came to appreciate true southern hospitality. You just cannot live around southerners without becoming somewhat southern. It is a choice you are proud to make because it is genuine, and filled with warmth and a certain charm.
Don’t get me wrong, I was born and raised in Indiana, and I am very proud of my midwestern heritage as well. My whole life I have heard people say, “you will not find people who are more kind and considerate than midwestern folks”, and I think they are right! I guess I consider myself very lucky to be a transplanted southern Hoosier, who by the grace of God, learned the meaning of true southern charm from my parents, my relatives and my friends there.
Tonight a share a story of hope from the great state of Alabama! It further illustrates my point – there are such good people living there – and this story is about one such southern gentleman who has chosen to help end the suffering of those living with Parkinson’s disease.
John Jurenko, a Huntsville, Alabama philanthropist has recently made a sizable donation to two Alabama medical firms for powerful research in Parkinson’s disease. John Jurenko believes by combining the efforts of two Alabama top biomedical researchers, they could develop treatments that could slow, cure or possibly prevent the disease.
This generous gift combines the efforts of (UAB) The University of Alabama Birmingham, Department of Neurology and The HudsonAlpha Biotechnology Institute whose primary focus is the study of genes, gene sequences and how genes function.
About HudsonAlpha Technology Institute
Genomics – the study of genes, gene sequences and their functions – has yielded unprecedented insight into what makes us, and the world around us, work. Each new discovery offers vast potential for improving life as we know it, but discovery is just the beginning of the journey. Taking what we know and transforming it into solutions representing significant advancements in health, well-being and livelihood is the ultimate destination.
The HudsonAlpha Institute is the cornerstone of a 150-acre biotech campus strategically located in Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. The non-profit institute is an integral part of Alabama’s life sciences community.
I say a very special “thank you” to Mr. Jurenko for his generous gift of Parkinson’s research. It is because of people like him that we may be closer to winning against this disease. May God bless you for your gift of research. pkp
UAB-HudsonAlpha partner to examine Parkinson’s genes
January 12, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – How do you glean important new information about Parkinson disease? According to Huntsville philanthropist John Jurenko, one way is to put Alabama’s top biomedical investigators on the task.
“My motivation for funding the UAB-HudsonAlpha project is to use the outstanding capabilities of the two institutions and their expert investigators,” said Jurenko. The philanthropist recently made a collective gift of $500,000 to the two organizations for research into treatments that will slow, cure or even prevent the disease.
The UAB-HudsonAlpha Collaborative Project in the Genetics and Genomics of Parkinson Disease is two-fold. Under the direction of David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., the John and Juanelle Strain Professor and interim chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Rick Myers, Ph.D., president and director of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, the team will use advanced technology to look at gene expression and genetic variation to provide new knowledge about the cause, effects and treatments of Parkinson disease.
Parkinson disease is a motor-system disorder that results from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four major symptoms of Parkinson disease are tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and impaired balance. Typically, the disease affects people age 50 and older. There are medications that can ease the symptoms, but there is no treatment available to stop the progression of the disease.
The project will include an unprecedented study of the effects of a neurological disease on expression of nearly all the genes in the human genome. “We now have the capability to study the effects of human disease on all 22,000 human genes,” said Myers. In this part of the project, researchers will compare brain tissue of 100 individuals who had Parkinson disease, against 100 individuals who were free of the disease. Ultra-high-throughput DNA-sequencing technologies that have been developed, improved and implemented at HudsonAlpha will be employed.
The comprehensive picture will provide new insight into the nature of the disease and new treatments for its motor and non-motor impacts.
The second part of the project focuses on levodopa, the most effective single therapy for Parkinson disease. Unfortunately, levodopa causes adverse side effects in some patients to include involuntary movement or cessation of voluntary movement. After five years of therapy, about half of patients treated with levodopa have these side-effects, referred to as dyskinesia.
Using data and samples from patients at the UAB Movement Disorders Clinic and next-generation DNA-sequencing technologies, this study will identify genetic variants associated with levodopa-induced-dyskinesia. The research could have a very important and immediate impact on patient therapy.
“If we can discover the genetic basis of risk for dyskinesia, we would be able to use levodopa more safely in patients who are likely to be resistant to dyskinesia, while avoiding levodopa in those at high risk for complications,” said Standaert.
All data produced during the project will be deposited in public databases for use by scientists from around the world. The project has been initiated and should be completed by the end of 2012.
“This is only the beginning,” said Jurenko. “More work and more money will be required to achieve our goal to slow or stop the progress of the disease.