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Valina L. Dawson, Ph.D.

Director, Neuroregeneration and Stem Cell Programs, Institute for Cell Engineering,
Professor of Neurology

See Research on Pubmed



  • Director, Neuroregeneration and Stem Cell Programs, Institute for Cell Engineering,
  • Vice-Chair, Department of Neurology
  • Professor of Neurology
  • Professor of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Physiology

Centers & Institutes

  • Institute for Cell Engineering

Research Interests

Neuronal cell survival; Neuronal cell death; Neuronal stem cell development; Parkinson's disease

Technology Expertise

Neuronal cell death, Neuronal cell survival, Parkinson's disease, Neuronal stem cell development


Valina L. Dawson, PhD, is a Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, Physiology and the Graduate Program in Cellular & Molecular Medicine. She is co-director of the Neuroregeneration and Stem Cell Programs in the Institute for Cell Engineering. She has had a long-standing interest in mechanisms of neuronal cell death, and described for the first time that NO mediated glutamate neurotoxicity. In a series of studies she described the activation and regulation of nNOS in terms of neurotoxicity, and identified poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP-1) as a potential downstream target mediating neurotoxicity. Additionally, this team conducted experiments that showed that endogenously produced peroxynitrite is likely the nitrogen oxide moiety that mediates, in large part, NO neurotoxicity.

In 1994, Dr Valina L. Dawson joined the Department of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she has continued to define the conditions under which NO is neurotoxic as well as define conditions in which NO is not neurotoxic and likely plays a role as a neuromodulator.


  • English


Society for Neuroscience

Women in Neuroscience

American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Neurologic Association

American Heart Association

The New York Academy of Sciences

Additional Resources +
  • Education +


    • Ph.D., University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, 1989, Pharmacology
    • B.S., University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, 1983, Environmental Toxicology
  • Research & Publications +

    Research Summary

    The Dawson lab studies neuronal cell death and survival, the molecular underpinnings of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and the development of neuronal stem cells. The lab has named a new cell death process Parthanatos. In the brain, Parthanatos is important in ischemic and excitotoxic injury and in models of Parkinson’s disease. The cell death mechanism involves nuclear activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and mitochondrial release of apoptosis inducing factor in the integration of the death signal; current research aims to further understand how this pathway works. In addition to cell death, the team also strives to understand how cells survive by characterizing survival genes and proteins involved in preconditioning. The team uses induced pluripotent stem cells to identify pharmaceutical agents that might be used therapeutically to protect the brain.

    To understand the role of LRRK2 in the function and dysfunction of neurons and in Parkinson’s disease, the team has generated LRRK2 knockout mice and LRRK2 transgenic mice and human dopaminergic cultures from reprogrammed patient fibroblasts to identify and characterize the interaction of LRRK2 and its protein targets through state-of-the art protein biochemistry with the hope of finding new strategies to treat PD.

    Selected Publications View all on PubMed

    1. Msp1/ATAD1 maintains mitochondrial function by facilitating the degradation of mislocalized tail-anchored proteins. Chen YC, Umanah GK, Dephoure N, Andrabi SA, Gygi SP, Dawson TM, Dawson VL, Rutter J. EMBO J. 2014 May 19. pii: e201487943. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 24843043
    2. The c-Abl inhibitor, Nilotinib, protects dopaminergic neurons in a preclinical animal model of Parkinson's disease. Karuppagounder SS, Brahmachari S, Lee Y, Dawson VL, Dawson TM, Ko HS. Sci Rep. 2014 May 2;4:4874. doi: 10.1038/srep04874. PMID: 24786396
    3. Botch Is a γ-Glutamyl Cyclotransferase that Deglycinates and Antagonizes Notch. Chi Z, Byrne ST, Dolinko A, Harraz MM, Kim MS, Umanah G, Zhong J, Chen R, Zhang J, Xu J, Chen L, Pandey A, Dawson TM, Dawson VL. Cell Rep. 2014 May 8;7(3):681-8. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.03.048. Epub 2014 Apr 24. PMID: 24767995
    4. Parkin and PINK1: much more than mitophagy. Scarffe LA, Stevens DA, Dawson VL, Dawson TM. Trends Neurosci. 2014 Apr 13. pii: S0166-2236(14)00043-5. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2014.03.004. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PMID: 24735649
    5. Ribosomal protein s15 phosphorylation mediates LRRK2 neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease. Martin I, Kim JW, Lee BD, Kang HC, Xu JC, Jia H, Stankowski J, Kim MS, Zhong J, Kumar M, Andrabi SA, Xiong Y, Dickson DW, Wszolek ZK, Pandey A, Dawson TM, Dawson VL. Cell. 2014 Apr 10;157(2):472-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.064. PMID: 24725412
  • Academic Affiliations & Courses +
  • Activities & Honors +


    SfN Committee on Women in Neuroscience (2007-2010)

    ISI Highly Cited, 2006

    SfN Young Investigator Award Committee, Society for Neuroscience (2007-2009)

    NINDS Stroke Progress Review Group, Genomics/Proteomics section, Chair, 2006

    NINDS K99-R00 Review Panel, Chair, 2006-present

    Faculty of 1000, 2006-present

    American Heart Steering Committee, 2005-present

    American Academy of Neurology, Frontiers in Clinical Neuroscience, 2005

    ISI Highly Cited, 2004

    McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders, 2004

    Co-Chair, American Heart Association National Review, BS2, 2004

    Reviewing Editor, Journal of Neuroscience, 2003-present

    Leadership Development Program – Johns Hopkins University, 2002

    NINDS NSDA Section Reviewer, 2000-2004

    American Heart Association Establish Investigator Award, 2001

    Mary Lou McIlhany Scholar, 1999-2007

    International Society for Neurochemistry Young Investigator, 1999.

    Staglin Music Festival Investigator, 1998.

    NARSAD Independent Investigator Award, 1998-2001

    Virginia Davids Scholar, 1998

    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, 1997-1999

    Muscular Dystrophy Association, 1997-1999

    American Heart Association Grant-In-Aid Award, 1996-1999

    National Institutes of Health, NINDS R29 NS33142-01A1, 1995-2000

    Muscular Dystrophy Association, 1995-1997

    Alzheimer's Association Scholar Award, 1994-1997

    NARSAD Young Investigator Award, 1994-1996

    American Heart Association Grant-In-Aid Award, 1994-1996

    AmFAR Scholar Award, 1994-1997

    ADAMHA: Intramural Research Training Award. 1992-1993

    National Institute on Drug Abuse Staff Fellow Award, 1992

    Winter Conference on Brain Research Fellowship, Vail, CO, 1991

    National Institutes of Health: PRAT Fellowship, 1990-1992

    National Institutes of Health Training Grant #GMO 7579-07. 1985-1987

    Bekins Scholarship Foundation, 1979-1983

    University of California at Davis - Student Orientation Leader Traineeship, 1981

    Italian-American Club Scholarship Foundation, 1979

    Beta Sigma Pi Scholarship Foundation, 1979

    Professional Activities

    Laboratory for Energy Health Research, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA; Staff Research Associate II - Analytical Organic Chemist and Toxicologist. 1985

    California State Department of Justice, Division of Forensic Toxicology, Sacramento, CA; Forensic Toxicology Trainee. 1984

    Assistant Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience and Physiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1994 –1996

    Associate Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Physiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1996-2001

    Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Physiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2001- present.

    Vice-Chair, Department of Neurology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2001- present.

    Director, Neuroregeneration and Repair Program, Institute for Cell Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2002- present.

    Director, Neurobiology of Disease Program, Departments of Neurology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2002- present.

  • Videos & Media +


    The Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE) at Johns Hopkins

    Neuroscientist Valina Dawson introduces the Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE), where researchers are working to solve problems such as transplant rejection, Parkinson's disease, and coronary artery disease using regenerative medicine. For more information visit

    Lectures and Presentations

    1. “Dissecting Neuronal Death and Survival Signaling.” Neuroscience Seminar Series Program in Neuroscience, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD (2008).
    2. “Neuroprotective Signaling Pathways.” Burke Medical Research Institute, White Plains, NY (2008).
    3. “Genetic Clues to the Mystery of Parkinson Disease.” Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, Department of Neurology University of California, San Francisco, CA (2008).
    4. “New Neuroprotective Signaling Pathways.” Brain Ischemia and Stroke Conference, Rome, Italy (2008).
    5. “Genetic Clues to the Mystery of Parkinson Disease.” ERBI Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy (2008).
    6. “What Genetic Mutations Reveal About Parkinson’s disease.” Department of Physiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD (2008).
    7. “Survival and Death Choices Regulated by mIRs.” Keystone Symposia Neurodegenerative Diseases: New Molecular Mechanisms, Keystone, CO (2009).
    8. “Clues about Parkinson''s disease from genetic mutations.” CDD Conference 2009 on Neurodegeneration, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche P.le Aldo Moro 7, 00185 Rome, Italy (2009)
    9. “Parkin, PARIS and mitochondrial stability - insight into Parkinson’s disease?” Neurodegeneration Conference, University of Leicester, Leicester, England (2009).
    10. “A novel neurprotective protein, Botch, regulates neurogenesis through Notch.” University of Maryland, Baltimore MD (2009).
    11. “Stem Cells” A Woman’s Journey, Baltimore, MD (2009)
    12. “LRRK2 Therapeutic Opportunities.” 2nd World Parkinson Congress, Glasgow, UK (2010)

    Presentations to the Lay Public

    1. Nitric Oxide and Schizophrenia. National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, New York, NY (1996).
    2. Nitric Oxide and Schizophrenia. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Washington, DC (1996).
    3. Rebuilding the Brain. Breakers, Palm Beach, FL (2005)
    4. Genetic Clues to the Mystery of Parkinson''s Disease. 4th Annual Young-Onset Parkinson Network Conference, National Parkinson Foundation, Reston, Virginia (2006)
    5. Stroke. The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and the American Heart Association National Convention, Baltimore, MD (2007)
    6. New Opportunities to Repair the Brain. Legacy Lunch, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore MD (2007)
    7. Changes to the Maryland Stem Cell Commission, WYPR Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, March 9, 2009.
    8. Stem Cells, A Woman’s Journey, Johns Hopkins University

    Recent News Articles & Media Coverage

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    Phone: 410-614-3361
    Fax: 410-614-9568

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