Valina Dawson Ph. D.

Valina Dawson Ph. D.

Professor, Primary Appointment in Neuroscience


Research Interests

Dr. Dawson’s laboratory is actively engaged in discovering and defining cell signaling pathways that lead to either neuronal survival or neuronal death. The lab has named a new cell death process Parthanatos. In the brain, Parthanatos is important in ischemic and excitotoxic injury and in models of Parkinson’s disease. The cell death mechanism involves nuclear activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and mitochondrial release of apoptosis inducing factor in the integration of the death signal; current research aims to further understand how this pathway works. She has characterized neuronal injury and survival pathways in cell, fly and mouse models of Parkinson’s disease and stroke. She is focused on several monogenic forms of Parkinson’s disease including parkin and LRRK2, as well as the new sporadic model of Parkinson’s disease using pre-formed fibrils of alpha synulcein in order to begin to define the biochemical signaling important to Parkinson’s disease. Yeast, cellular, fly and mouse models along with human neuronal cultures and human postmortem tissue explore survival and disease signaling events relevant to Parkinson’s disease. . In addition to cell death, the team also strives to understand how cells survive by characterizing survival genes and proteins involved in preconditioning. The Dawson laboratory employs advanced technologies in high throughput screening, next generation sequencing including RNA Seq and ChIP Seq, ribosomal foot printing, and high throughput proteomic analysis coupled with advanced computational biology to investigate signaling networks important in stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The overarching goal of the research is to understand death and survival signaling in order to identify new targets for therapeutic development.