MPBN documentary highlights Michael J. Fox Foundation, The Jackson Laboratory

Date: June 3, 2010
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Bar Harbor, Maine -- A new documentary about the devastating effects of Parkinson's disease, produced by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, highlights the work of The Jackson Laboratory and the funding it receives from the Michael J. Fox Foundation in advancing Parkinson's research.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive disease in which dopamine-producing neurons in a specific part of the brain -- the substantia nigra -- die or become impaired. Without dopamine, an essential neurotransmitter, body movement is disrupted, leading to the tremors, balance and other problems that mark Parkinson's. Dopamine replacement therapy is available, but alleviates only some of these symptoms and has severe side effects.

MPBN producer Dan Lambert explains that the concept for "Easing the Burden: Parkinson's Disease" resulted from the outpouring of response that the public broadcasting network received following the broadcast of "Caring for the Caregiver," a documentary about the challenges of caring for loved ones with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"We didn't set out with the intention of making another documentary," Lambert says, "but after the positive response to the first, and given Maine's aging population, we realized there was a desire on the part of Mainers to learn more about meeting the challenges of chronic disease. That's when MPBN decided to focus on Parkinson's disease for our next project."

Michael J. Fox agreed to be part of the program, given that the Michael J. Fox Foundation funds and supports Parkinson's research including work by the Maine-based Jackson Laboratory. "We traveled to Manhattan in late May and interviewed Michael on Parkinson's issues facing both himself and all Parkinson's sufferers," Lambert says. "He was very gracious and personable."

Cat Lutz, Ph.D., associate director of The Jackson Laboratory's Genetic Resource Science Mouse Repository, appears in the documentary. Lutz explains that the funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation is vital to the Laboratory's role in speeding the development of new treatment options for Parkinson's disease.

"Mouse models of Parkinson's disease are genetically modified to express the mutations similar to those found in people with the disease," Lutz says. "Many of the most valuable Parkinson's models were developed with funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation. To encourage collaboration among the scientists it funds, the Foundation requires them to send new models to The Jackson Laboratory's Parkinson's Disease Mouse Model Resource, directed by Dr. Michael Sasner."

"Easing the Burden: Parkinson's Disease" airs on MPBN-TV on Monday, June 7 at 9 p.m. and Thursday, June 10 at 8:30 p.m., and may be viewed online after June 7.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human diseases, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community.

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Contact(s): Joyce Peterson, 207-288-6058

For information on automatic email delivery of news releases (journalists only), please send an email request for details to news@jax.org. Please address other inquiries to pubinfo@jax.org.

Media Relations, Communications Office
The Jackson Laboratory
600 Main Street
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609-1500
Phone: 207-288-6058 (journalists only)
Main Jackson Laboratory phone: 207-288-6000
Fax: 207-288-6076
Email: news@jax.org