Text Box:  Un Jung Kang, M.D.

 

Professor of Neurology

 

MC 2030, J219

The University of Chicago

5841 S Maryland Avenue

Chicago, Illinois 60637-1470

Phone (773) 702-6389

Email: unkang@uchicago.edu

 

My academic interests are the scientific and clinical aspects of neurodegenerative diseases associated with abnormal involuntary movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD).  My primary research focus is on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie these disorders and devising rational therapeutic approaches through laboratory investigation.  My clinical activities include clinical investigations of new therapeutic agents, biomarker development, and specialty patient care.  Teaching is an integral part of these activities.

 

Research interests:

(representative publication with pdf links or pubmed search list)

 

Mechanisms of Dopaminergic Therapy and Its Complications in PD

Dopamine replacement remains the mainstay of PD therapy.  We are interested in optimizing and understanding the limits of most optimal dopamine therapy.  My initial research focus was to devise gene therapy methods to deliver dopamine locally into the denervated area of brain and continuously in an attempt to improve current symptomatic pharmacological treatment approaches for PD.  Through the systematic neurobiological investigation of the biochemical steps, we have established the roles of each step in dopamine biosynthesis for gene therapy and found the optimal set of genes for effective dopamine replacement gene therapy.  These studies have established guidelines for optimal combinations of genes to be used for dopamine replacement, and formed the basis of primate studies and current clinical trials by other investigators.  More recently, in collaboration with Professor Xiaoxi Zhuang’s laboratory, we discovered the role of motor learning as the underlying mechanism for long-duration response, which is more beneficial response than short-duration response to dopamine therapy.  A lay version of the story is on a science blog.  We are studying molecular mechanisms mediating such learning and exploring clinical translation of this finding for optimal treatment of PD patient by combining motor training and dopamine therapy.  A preliminary evidence for such synergistic interaction in PD patients has been obtained by analyzing data from clinical trials of levodopa, as described in another science blog.

 

We also study the molecular mechanisms underlying dyskinesia, a major limiting factor in current dopaminergic therapy regardless of the delivery methods.  We have established toxic and genetic models of PD phenotype.  Combining our in-depth understanding of the molecular and biochemical requirements for dopamine replacement, and the behavioral paradigms that allow the distinction between the akinesia improvement and dyskinesia development, we are examining the molecular and cellular mechanisms for motor response complications.  Electrophysiological studies are also performed in collaboration with Professor Dan McGehee.  Our recent study illustrates the role of cholinergic interneurons as critical mediator of dyskinesia.  A lay version of this story is on a science blog.

 

We also try to understand the cognitive side effect of dopaminergic therapy, in particular, excessive behaviors that results in gambling, shopping spree, or other impulse control disorders.

 

Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration in PD

Currently, our major research focus is on understanding the mechanism of neurodegeneration in PD.  We have investigated clues derived from environmental factors using toxic models.  We are trying to understand the role of mitochondria and oxidative stress and the intrinsic properties of dopaminergic neurons that make them more susceptible to degeneration.  More recently, we are studying rodent models of genetic PD (DJ-1 and PINK1 mutations) as complementary approaches to understand the disease mechanisms.

 

We are interested in applying these findings to develop biomarkers to track the disease progression and disease subtypes as well as to develop therapeutic approaches.

 

Please also see my websites for the Committee on Neurobiology for further information on research activities, Department of Neurology, the Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, and University of Chicago Medical Center for clinical activities.

 

EDUCATION/PROFESSIONAL TRAINING:

1978                The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL             B.A. in Chemistry

1982                The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD  M.D.

1987                Resident in Neurology and Fellow in Movement Disorders, Neurological Institute, Columbia University Medical Center,, New York, NY

1988-1992      (Instructor/Assistant Professor) Research Training in the laboratories of Tong H Joh, Ph.D., Cornell Medical College, New York, NY and Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., U California, San Diego, CA

 

ACADEMIC POSITIONS:

1992-present    Assistant/Associate/Full Professor, Department of Neurology, The University of Chicago

1993-present    Committees on Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine (since 2002)

 

Directions and maps:

Office and lab: J219 in the Surgery – Brain Research Building.  

Clinic: 4G of the Center for Advanced Medicine. 

Driving directions & parking: valet parking at the Center for Advanced Medicine or self park in parking lots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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