All plenary sessions will be presented in Alumni Hall’s 7th floor lecture hall.
Klaus Hofmann Lecture
Mahlon DeLong, MD
Research led by Mahlon DeLong, MD, has revolutionized the understanding and treatment of Parkinson’s disease by elucidating the neural basis of the cardinal clinical features of this disorder, including tremor, muscle rigidity, and slowed movement. DeLong and colleagues identified the brain circuits that underlie Parkinson’s symptoms and demonstrated that targeting these circuits in the subthalmic nucleus could successfully alleviate disease symptoms. These findings in an animal model of Parkinson’s helped to revive the use of surgical treatments for Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, providing a novel target that paved the way for future deep-brain stimulation therapies.
While scientists knew that loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the basal ganglia resulted in Parkinson’s, they didn’t understand this deficiency’s connection to movement-related symptoms. By studying animals with a Parkinson’s-like condition, DeLong and co-workers observed that cells involved with movement in portions of the basal ganglia were firing excessively and abnormally. Together with colleagues, DeLong demonstrated that surgically inactivating them could bring symptoms under control in animal models and, later, in humans. The research revealed targets in the subthalmic nucleus for high-frequency electrical deep-brain stimulation, a treatment method that eliminates the signs and symptoms of Parkinsonism and restores more normal function. This less invasive technique, developed by Alim-Louis Benabid, MD, PhD, has been used to treat more than 100,000 advanced Parkinson’s patients worldwide. DeLong would later share the 2014 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award with Benabid.
DeLong received his MD from Harvard Medical School. He completed an internship in medicine at Boston City Hospital and a neurophysiology fellowship at the National Institutes of Health before returning to clinical training to complete a neurology residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His other awards include the 2013 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.