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“The saddest diseases”: A lifelong academic explains his work on neurodegeneration

Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford's most innovative biomedical researchers. 

Tom Clandinin, PhD, a Stanford professor of neurobiology, started spending time in research labs when he was 3. Yes, 3. Both of his parents and his grandfather were scientists, so for the young Clandinin, his career choice wasn't really between, say, lawyer and accountant. Instead, it was between genetics and neuroscience.

He chose neuroscience. "Because the brain is the most complicated organ in the body, I became excited about how it develops," he says in the video above.

Now, he is striving to learn more about conditions he considers among "the saddest diseases" -- neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. He explains:

We have a very limited understanding of how these diseases work. One of the things I study in my lab is actually how genes that have been shown to be associated with Parkinson's disease actually cause neurons to lose their synapses.

The insights from that work may extend beyond Parkinson's disease to enhance the basic understanding of how neurons function.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine's Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Yeast advance understanding of Parkinson's disease, says Stanford study, Newfound brain pathway may let epilepsy patients steer around medical marijuana's nasty side effects and Vrrrooom, vrrrooom vesicles: A Stanford researcher's work on neurotransmission

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