Translational Science Research

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Research Labs: Gene Therapy and Diagnostics for Personalized Medicine in Neurodegenerative Diseases

This spotlight features a number of translational science research labs at MSU, described in greater detail below. All are members of The Department of Translational Science & Molecular Medicine (TSMM), a new department within the Office of the Dean of the College of Human Medicine at MSU.

Unlike basic biomedical research which is concerned with understanding the essential function of biologic processes, translational research applies basic science findings with the intent of moving them from the laboratory to the clinic.   Translational research focuses on the development of treatment strategies for patients including new drugs, devices and therapies. Translational research is the “middle-man” in a continuous cycle between basic scientists and physicians.

Each of these labs represent an opportunity to license technologies they developed, that are currently available, or to collaborate with the labs and researchers individually and sponsor more specific research. Contact Nina Isi Davis to learn more.


Dr. Collier’s research utilizes primary cell culture, rat and nonhuman primate models to study mechanisms of central nervous system aging, neurodegenerative diseases and the relationship between the two. Current work emphasizes etiology and experimental therapeutics related to Parkinson’s disease (PD) with projects including collaborations in adult stem cell biology, neurobiology of aging, neural growth factor gene therapy and re-purposing drugs for Parkinson’s disease. 

Dr. Kanaan’s laboratory researches neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease as well as the role of aging-related changes in neurodegenerative disease.  Studies in the Kanaan lab focus on the molecular mechanisms underlying degenerative diseases and exploring therapeutic strategies.

Dr. Lipton’s laboratory works in collaboration with faculty from the MSU PD Research Team to support initiatives on neural transplantation therapies, pharmacokinetic studies of investigational drugs, gene therapy, deep brain stimulation and etiology of Parkinson’s disease. His lab additionally examines the central nervous system changes produced by developmental exposure to drugs of abuse, including cocaine and ecstasy.

Dr. Manfredsson’s research centers around engineering and characterizing recombinant Adeno-Associated Virus (rAAV) and Lentiviral vectors for the delivery to both the central and peripheral nervous system or cells in vitro. His laboratory then utilizes these engineered vectors to study and treat pathological molecular processes in neurodegenerative disease, with a primary focus on Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Sortwell's research investigates therapeutic strategies for the treatment of Parkinson's disease including transplantation, pharmacotherapy, trophic factor augmentation via gene therapy and deep brain stimulation. Emphasis is placed on determining the potential of various neuroprotective approaches to slow degeneration.

Dr. Steece-Collier’s research focuses on neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. Her goal is to understand why experimental therapies aimed at replacing dopamine terminals in the PD brain have given largely disappointing results in clinical trials, and how to more consistently and effectively remodel the circuitry of the parkinsonian brain to improve therapeutic outcome of such therapies and prevent dyskinetic side-effects of standard pharmacotherapy.