In August 2016, Dr. Kim Tieu, a renowned Parkinson’s Disease (PD) researcher, left the University of Plymouth (United Kingdom) to join the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the FIU Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. And with his arrival, FIU received a $489,979 grant funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences over the next two years.
[Photo: Dr. Kim Tieu]
Entitled “Toxicant-induced synaptic dysfunction and neurotoxicity in Parkinson Disease,” this grant, now in its third of four years, is critical because in the United States alone, about one million people PD and 50-60,000 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year. The causes of PD in most of these cases remain unknown; however, environmental factors have been implicated. The focus of this grant is of two-fold: First, to elucidate the mechanisms by which exogenous environmental relevant toxicants induce neurotoxicity through perturbed mitochondrial function and second, to identify potential novel therapeutic strategies for PD.
Dr. Tieu explained that the research is essential because the results will “provide critical information regarding how toxic insults impact cell viability in the brain by impairing mitochondria (which are the powerhouses in the cell) and offer insights into a potential novel therapeutic target for PD.”
Dr. Tieu received his Ph.D. from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and completed his post-doctoral training at Columbia University. His research interest has always been to study mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction and degeneration as seen in Parkinson’s disease, with the ultimate goal of developing effective therapies for this devastating neurological disorder. The research projects in his lab focus on the following fundamental questions: 1) Is mitochondrial dysfunction pathogenic in PD? If so, can mitochondrial dynamics be targeted for PD treatment? 2) The role of genetic, environmental factors and gene-environment interactions in the development and progression of PD? To address these questions, his lab performs rigorous biochemical, histological, functional and genetic analyses in experimental models of PD. When applicable, post-mortem human samples are also used.
Dr. Tieu is delighted to bring his research to FIU. Moving with him are three doctoral students and a post-doctoral fellow from England. He said: “My lab members and I are truly excited to be at FIU, arriving at a time with such a tremendous growth and strong emphasis on research at this university. I believe my research interest and expertise will complement well to those at FIU and I look forward to collaborating with my new colleagues here”