The research interests of Mayo Clinic's Parkinson's Disease Laboratory and Stroke and Vascular Disease Laboratory, both led by Owen A. Ross, Ph.D., revolve around the genetics of aging and age-related disorders. Dr. Ross' primary research is focused on the role of genetics in familial and sporadic forms of parkinsonism and related movement disorders.
Dr. Ross has played an important role in characterizing the two most important genes in Parkinson's disease, LRRK2 and SNCA. He has identified functional common risk factors and patient populations in Parkinson's disease, demonstrating the importance of genetics in sporadic disease. He has also identified novel genes for Parkinson's disease and a number of related disorders.
Dr. Ross has collaborated with researchers in departments of neurology and neuroscience in more than 20 countries. He is part of a team of internationally recognized researchers and clinicians with specialty training in Parkinson's disease and movement disorders supported by the American Parkinson Disease Association. Mayo Clinic has been designated an American Parkinson Disease Center for Advanced Research.
- Parkinson's disease and genetics. Genetic studies in this area include genetic testing of known genes, and the hunt for novel genes and pathogenic mutations in Parkinson's disease and related disorders.
- Stroke and vascular neurological disorders. Genetic studies on stroke aim to identify novel prognostic genetic biomarkers for individuals at risk. The identification of functional pathogenic variants may also direct prevention strategies and nominate molecular targets for individualized disease-modifying therapies.
- The role of the extranuclear DNA genome of the mitochondrion in aging and disease. The polymorphic nature of mtDNA and its propensity for damage are crucial in cellular oxidative stress and apoptosis. Dr. Ross has a keen interest in immunogenetics and immune dysfunction resulting in an altered inflammatory equilibrium and the role this plays in immunosenescence and longevity.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Ross believes individualized medicine will become central in disease treatment with therapeutic intervention based on the genomic background of each patient. Neurogenetic methods may now refine patient diagnosis, identify biomarkers of early and progressive disease, nominate "druggable" targets, establish functional assays for drug development, as well as the in vivo models on which to test them. Neurogenetics laboratories conceptualize the theme of a bench-to-bedside approach and represent translational neuroscience in practice.