Podcast Episode 35: Preclinical Models of PD

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Before therapies make it into clinical trials, they undergo a series of laboratory testing. These preclinical models of the disease may include animals, cell lines, or single cell organisms to help validate the success of a potential treatment. Additionally, preclinical models of Parkinson’s disease may help us to understand the mechanisms and the molecular or genetic pathways that control or interfere with normal and abnormal functions. Understanding the underlying disease processes is critical to targeting molecular and cellular pathways for the development of therapies. Richard Smeyne is a professor of neuroscience and director of the Jefferson Comprehensive Movement Disorder and Parkinson’s Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. His laboratory focuses on mechanisms of neurodegeneration and neuroprotection. In this podcast, he discusses the value of research on preclinical models of PD.

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About This Episode

Released: August 14, 2018

Richard Smeyne, PhD

Richard Smeyne earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology from St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia, PA) in 1977, attended the M.A. Program in Experimental Psychology at the University of Hartford through 1992 and earned his Ph.D in Anatomy from Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, PA) in 1989.  He did a postdoctoral fellowship from 1989-1991 at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley NJ where he studied with Jim Morgan and Tom Curran. 

Following his postdoctoral work, he started his own lab at the Bristol Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Center where he became recognized for his analysis of mice carrying mutations of the neurotrophin receptors TrkA, TrkB and TrkC. Dr. Smeyne was subsequently recruited in 1994 to become the Head of the Neurogenetics Program in the Division of CNS Research at Hoffmann-LaRoche. In 1996, following the closure of the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, from 1996-2016, Dr. Smeyne was a faculty member in the Department of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (SJCRH) in Memphis TN. IN 2016, he moved to his current position as a Full Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University.  He also serves as the Director of the Jefferson Comprehensive Parkinson’s Disease Center.

Dr. Smeyne has had a long-standing interest in the cell biology of Parkinson’s disease, with studies examining both environmental and genetic causation.  His lab was one the first to show, in animal models of PD, that exercise could modify disease progression, and more recently has been examining the underlying molecular programs responsible for this neuroprotection. He is also recognized for his work examining interactions of the peripheral immune system with that of the brain’s innate immune system immune as well as the role of viruses in the etiology of Parkinson’s disease.  Currently, Dr. Smeyne serves as a member of the Clinical and Scientific Advisory Board for the Parkinson’s Foundation. His lab is currently funded by the NIH, the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. 


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