Dr. Standaert was named the John N. Whitaker Professor & Chair of Neurology in 2012. Prior to that, he was appointed the John T. and Juanelle D. Strain Endowed Chair by the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama system, which he held for five years. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University in St. Louis in medicine and pharmacology in 1988. He completed a one-year internship in medicine at Jewish Hospital of St. Louis in 1989 and a three-year neurology residency in 1992 at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a three-year research and clinical fellowship in neurology (movement disorders) at Harvard Medical School Massachusetts General Hospital in 1995. Dr. Standaert is licensed to practice medicine in the states of Massachusetts and Alabama and was board certified in 1993 by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Standaert's clinical teaching has consisted of: serving as an attending physician on the MGH Neurology inpatient service, one month each year; teaching residents, fellows and medical students in the Movement Disorders clinic on a weekly basis; and teaching in Resident's clinic about once a month. Classroom teaching has consisted of serving as member of the Core Faculty for Harvard Health Sciences Technology Pharmacology course (HST150) and a lecturer for the Harvard Medical School Human Neuroscience and Behavior course. Dr. Standaert serves as Director of the Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics, Director of the Division of Movement Disorders in the Department of Neurology, Director of the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) Advanced Center for Parkinson Research, and Director of the UAB Bachmann-Straus Dystonia and Parkinson’s Disease Center of Excellence. He sees many patients in a weekly clinic and oversees many clinical trials for new treatments in Parkinson’s disease.
My laboratory is working on understanding both the root causes of Parkinson disease (PD) as well as the origin of the disabling symptoms that appear after long term treatment of the disease. The lab has a strong translational orientation – our goal is to accelerate the delivery of new therapies for Parkinson disease to the patients who desperately need them. A primary focus of the laboratory is understanding the role of the protein alpha-synuclein in PD pathophysiology, and searching for novel approaches for protecting the brain from the effects of excess alpha-synuclein. We use a variety of cellular and rodent models, and are exploring the effects of several chaperone molecules, including those derived from open-ended screens in simple non-mammalian systems. A related interest is the role of neuroinflammation in PD. In human PD, there is a marked brain inflammatory response. Recent work in the Standaert lab using mouse models has led to the idea that this inflammation may be triggered directly by the presence of excess alpha-synuclein. The response involves both microglia as well as the adaptive immune system, and both components may be targets of therapies to prevent or retard the disease. We are also exploring the effect of levodopa on brain function in PD. Levodopa remains the most effective existing treatment, but long-term therapy leads to many unwanted side effects (“wearing off” and “dyskinesia”). The Standaert lab has shown that many of the effects result from abnormal synaptic plasticity in the basal ganglia, and mislocalization of glutamate receptor systems. Recently, we found that the mechanisms responsible for the maintenance of this aberrant plasticity are likely the result of levodopa-induced epigenetic modifications.