Ted Dawson on how the study of Parkinson’s disease is a family affair:
Husband and wife research couples are becoming more common this day and age and you have been collaborating with your wife Valina since graduate school. How did you maintain this relationship?
DAWSON: We both did post-docs at Hopkins. In 1992, when Valina and I were looking for jobs, there was still a lot of sexism in science. Hopkins was one of the few places that gave us both really good offers. We have stayed and grown and really like what we are doing here. She has a completely separate lab but, we are highly integrated in what we do. We both work on Parkinson’s disease and cell survival and death. There are people in my lab working on her projects and people in her lab working on my projects. We’ve sort of interdigitated into one another.
How does your research involve stem cells?
DAWSON: A few years ago, researchers figured out how to turn skin cells into stem cells. And, we thought, “Ah ha,” we could do that in patients with Parkinson’s disease and instead of studying Parkinson’s disease in mice and mouse neurons, we could study it in human neurons. So we’re doing a lot of that work turning skin cells from people with different Parkinson’s disease mutations into stem cells and then turning them into neurons.
Why are human cells so exciting when it comes to Parkinson’s disease?
DAWSON: My former chairman Jack Griffin used to joke that “we are very good at curing Parkinson’s disease in a mouse, but it’s going from the mouse to the human that has been a real challenge.” Now that we have this stem cell technology, we can test our hypotheses and discover drugs that actually work in human neurons rather than in mice and then we’ll hopefully be able to make the leap forward to get treatments to work in humans.
--Interviewed by Vanessa McMains
Ted Dawson on using stem cells to study Parkinson's disease:
- Researchers Turn Skin Cells Into Brain Cells, A Promising Path To Better Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
- What Doesn't Kill The Brain Makes It Stronger
- Johns Hopkins Team Explores Paris; Finds A Key To Parkinson's
- Parkinson's Disease: Excess of Special Protein Identified as Key to Symptoms and Possible New Target for Treatment with Widely Used Anti-Cancer Drug
- A Promising Target for Developing Treatments Against Parkinson's Disease
- Stem Cell Research: Forging Ahead