Jefferson University Hospitals

Vickie & Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience


Breakthrough research informs treatment options. Basic, clinical and translational research inform everything we do for our patients at Jefferson. With some of the brightest researchers in neuroscience working tirelessly to combat this debilitating disease – and through the philanthropic efforts like those of Vickie and Jack Farber who helped create the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience, we are tackling Parkinson’s disease from every angle. Once we confirm how it starts and what external factors influence disease progression, we can cure it.

Cellular and Molecular Basis of Parkinson’s Disease

The biggest obstacle to developing successful therapies is a lack of knowledge of early molecular and synaptic events that occur in Parkinson’s disease. Under the direction of Hui Zhang, PhD, Jefferson researchers are studying the function of genes shown to contribute to the development of the disorder. The team developed a model that successfully replicates the behavioral, neurochemical and pathological features of Parkinson’s—a powerful tool for investigating what happens at the genesis of the disease.

Environmental Factors and the Development of Parkinson’s Disease

Center Director, Richard Smeyne, PhD, has devoted the past 21 years to researching the mechanisms that underlie neurodegeneration and neuroprotection in Parkinson’s disease. His lab examines the impact of environmental agents on the disorder. Current studies are investigating the role of exercise, the effect of viruses and the impact of social issues like isolation and loneliness as they relate to Parkinson’s.

Harnessing Stem Cells to Study, Treat and Cure Parkinson’s Disease

Lorraine Iacovitti, PhD, Center Research Director, is internationally recognized for her studies examining the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for neuron replacement. A long-standing goal of her lab is to uncover the genetic and epigenetic factors in Parkinson’s disease, to rescue or replace dopamine neurons lost in the disorder. Her team recently developed methods to control how an iPS cell forms, overcoming one of the major roadblocks slowing the translation of iPS technology to the clinic. This allows her to begin a first-of-its-kind preclinical study examining motor-skill changes in an animal model transplanted with dopamine neurons derived from human iPS cells.