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Neurology - Parkinson's

Houston, Texas

The Cullen Building at Baylor College of Medicine.
Department of Neurology
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Annual Report

November, 2001

As we approach this year's season of thanksgiving and reflect on the tragic events of the recent past I would like to provide this uplifting update on the activities of our Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center over the past year. I also want to express my deep gratitude for the positive year of accomplishment and share with you my vision for the future of the Center.

Taking advantage of our newly designed Experimental Therapeutics Center we have increased considerably our clinical research activities. We are currently involved in about 50 projects related to broad areas of research including genetics of Parkinson's disease, dystonia and other movement disorders and experimental therapeutics such as new dopamine agonists and novel drug deliveries (controlled release, skin patch, injectable forms of dopamine agonists).

We also continue to pursue studies with botulinum toxin in an attempt to explore pharmacologic and immunologic differences between different types and formulations of botulinum toxin.

In collaboration with Weidong Le, M.D., Ph.D., the newly appointed director of our Parkinson's Disease Research Laboratory, located in the Neurosensory Center, we have studied various mutations in the gene Nurr1. This gene, originally studied at Baylor, is essential for the development of the dopamine system that is impaired in Parkinson's disease. As a result of these studies we hope to develop a genetic test for certain forms of Parkinson's disease. In collaboration with Dr. Le and his team of researchers we have developed animal models of Parkinson's disease that may be particularly suited for the study of neuroprotective strategies that may eventually slow down the progression of the disease.

We are also actively pursuing stem cell research using bone marrow cells, rather than embryonic human cells. We hope that by manipulating their environment in the tissue culture and with the help of genetic engineering we will be able to coax these very primitive cells to develop (differentiate) into dopamine producing nerve cells.

Our surgical program, particularly deep brain stimulation (DBS), is rapidly expanding. DBS has been found to be effective in patients with essential and other tremors, Parkinson's disease, and dystonia. In an article recently published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine we have described the beneficial effects of DBS in patients with Parkinson's disease enrolled in a large, multinational study, in which our Center also participated.

Baylor's premier status in surgical treatment of Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders has been established by a publication of a textbook "Surgery for Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders", edited by Drs. Krauss, Jankovic and Grossman in October 2001. Besides this seminal major textbook, I also co-edited this year books on "Gait Disorders" and "Tourette Syndrome". In addition to these publications, about 50 other papers and chapters authored by the physicians at Baylor's Parkinson Disease Center and Movement Disorders Clinic have been published during the past year.

I have been invited as a visiting professor and lecturer in many prestigious universities including University of California at Los Angeles, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, Columbia University, University of New Mexico, University of California at San Diego, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and Johns Hopkins University where I was honored by presenting the prestigious Nathan Cohen Lecture. I have been also invited by the American Academy of Neurology to direct various courses and educational programs. In addition, I have been unanimously elected to the World Federation of Neurology Research Committee on Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders. In addition to being listed annually in Who's Who in America and in the World, I was also listed in "America's Top Doctors" and "Houston's Top Doctors".

Over 800 health care professionals participated in a scientific and educational symposium on Tourette syndrome that we hosted earlier this year. This, the 11th year of our annual course "A Comprehensive Review of Movement Disorders for the Clinical Practitioner" in Aspen, Colorado, we had a record number of participants and movement disorder trainees from many continents. Finally, our Movement Disorders Center was recognized this year by the Huntington Disease Society of America as a Center of Excellence.

I am very proud of the accomplishments of our Center. We have re-dedicated our efforts to meet our chief missions and goals: 1) to provide the most professional and compassionate patient care; 2) to initiate and conduct clinical and basic research which upholds the highest scientific standards; and 3) to educate and train physicians and other health care professionals to become skilled in the recognition and treatment of movement disorders and to inspire them to pursue basic or clinical research in the area of movement and neurodegenerative disorders.

In order to meet these challenges and to maintain our world leadership we depend on funding from various governmental and private institutions, foundations, and on financial support from our grateful patients. It is this support that is particularly meaningful because it is not only a reflection of confidence in our ability to advance the research but such unrestricted funds allow for flexibility in directing the funds where they are needed the most. The impact of these gifts has been multiplied because they have provided leverage for obtaining funding from other sources. To ensure the Center remains at the forefront of research in the future, gifts from many other donors have helped us establish the Parkinson's Research Endowment Fund (PREF). Monies contributed to the PREF are invested in a permanent fund, the earnings from which will help launch groundbreaking research and train the next generation of medical and research leaders. Thanks to two very successful galas and to the contributions of several generous donors we have already raised $1.5 million toward our $10 million goal. The success of the Galas has introduced us to many new supporters who want to join in this effort. Because of this expanding vitality, we have elected to postpone the Gala for a year to concentrate on raising funds for the PREF and to meet current needs.

Because of the current difficult economic and political climate the usual private and federal support for funding of research is threatened. I, therefore, need your help now more than ever! I ask you to join in our work by making a personal tax deductible contribution (tax I.D. number 74 1613878) to further research to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life of thousands of people with Parkinson's and other movement disorders. If you prefer, you may choose to honor someone special with your gift or to designate your gift to the endowment. Donations should be made payable to the Parkinson Disease Center and sent to me at the above address. If your company has a matching gift program, be sure to let us know so the proper forms can be filed. All gifts will be properly acknowledged.

Please let me know if you have any specific questions about our research goals and needs. On behalf of my team, I want to convey our gratitude for your interest and support.

With warm appreciation,

Joseph Jankovic, M.D.

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