JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

June 28, 1998

For press inquiriesonly, please call (410) 955-6680.

Hopkins Co-sponsors First International Congress on the Genetics of Neuroscience

Basic and clinical researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Md., USA, and the S. Maria Hospital of Terni, Italy, will co-sponsor the first International Congress of the Genetics of Neuroscience from Sunday, June 28, through Wednesday, July 1, in Terni. About 100 neurologists, neurosurgeons and anesthesiologists from the United States and Italy will present current research in the genetics of strokes, brain tumors and neurological degenerative disorders, among other conditions.

Following are highlights from Johns Hopkins presenters. They are available for media interviews. For information call Karen Infeld at 410-955-1534 or send e-mail to kinfeld@jhmi.edu. During the congress, contact Lesley Macherelli at the Hotel Garden in Terni: 39-0744-300041.


Although blocked or weakened arteries are official triggers of stroke, underlying factors are extremely diverse, often with a strong genetic basis. Neurologist James J. Vornov, M.D., Ph.D., says genetic differences may principally determine who is more susceptible to injury once a stroke has developed.


Despite advances in surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the average survival rate for patients with high-grade brain tumors remains at less than a year. Recently, a number of novel therapeutic strategies have been evaluated to improve these outcomes, inspired by a growing understanding of the molecular biology of these tumors. Neurosurgeons Kevin A. Walter, M.D., and Henry Brem, M.D., describe treatments that improve delivery of anti-cancer drugs to the tumor bed, by drug-impregnated implants and by using molecular targeting to home in on residual tumor.


Recent advances in genetics have raised the expectation that gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease) may soon become a reality. Although scientists understand that some of these expectations are overly optimistic, they report progress. Neurologist Hugo W. Moser, M.D., will summarize current approaches and strategies in the uses of gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders.


Intracranial aneurysms are more prevalent in certain populations and families, suggesting that genetics plays a strong role in 10 to 30 percent of cases. Familial aneurysms show a higher prevalence in females and tend to rupture at an earlier age than those seen in sporadic cases. Geneticist Harry C. Dietz III, M.D., says the identification of predisposed populations or families should speed up identification of the offending gene or genes.


Skeletal dysplasias are a group of several hundred genetic disorders. Characterized by irregular bone development, they cause short limbs, club feet and spinal abnormalities requiring surgery. Neurosurgeons Benjamin S. Carson, M.D.; Richard E. Clatterbuck, M.D., Ph.D.; Kevin A. Walter, M.D.; and Daniele Rigamonti, M.D.; report on the epidemiological and multidisciplinary therapeutic advances.

The other Hopkins presenters are: Michael Ain, M.D.; J. Michael Anderson, M.D.; Allan J. Belzberg, M.D.; Peter C. Burger, M.D.; Eleanor Carson-Walter, M.D.; John Griffin, M.D.; Orest Hurko, M.D.; Hyder A. Jinnah, M.D., Ph.D.; Richard T. Johnson, M.D.; Donlin M. Long, M.D., Ph.D.; John Mathis, M.D.; Neil R. Miller, M.D.; Jack Moriarity, M.D.; Alessandro Olivi, M.D.; John A. Ulatowski, M.D., Ph.D.; Moody D. Wharam, M.D.; and David S. Zee, M.D.

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