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Renovated Columbia Labs to be Dedicated

On October 3, 2006, the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF) will join researchers, doctors and donors to dedicate a major renovation of the Research Laboratories for Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders at Columbia University Medical Center. This event will be the culmination of a $6 million joint fundraising campaign by PDF and the University. Supporting the drive was funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PDF and several other very generous friends.

The laboratories, located in Columbia's William Black Medical Research Building, were originally built in 1965. Through the years, the technology in the labs became outdated as the focus of experimental neurology has shifted from physiological experiments with animals to molecular and cellular investigation.

"The renovation of our research laboratories would never have been achieved without the support of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation and its friends," said Dr. Robert Burke, Director of Laboratory Research in Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders. "The NIH support for the project, as important as it was, represented only a fraction of the total cost. The University gave approval for the project to move forward, even as fundraising was still ongoing, based entirely on an expression of full commitment to it by the PDF Board of Directors. So, in a very real sense, the project was begun and brought to completion thanks to the efforts of PDF and its friends."

The new laboratory space was designed by Mitchell-Giurgola, an award-winning architecture firm focused on the design of scientific labs. Two core improvements made in the renovations will benefit researchers working in all six labs at the facility. The first is the additional space that was created for investigators to house genetically engineered mice (key components to conducting modern research on neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease). The second is a facility for accommodating a pair of confocal microscopes - laser-based optical imaging instruments that are used to visualize the internal components of cells.

Additionally, a new area of shared space offers a central room for dishwashing, a designated dark room and a space for equipment that is shared by all of the researchers. The area contains such equipment as centrifuges, a DNA sequencer, an image analyzer, a spectrophotometer and deep-freezers.

The renovations also include updated systems for air and temperature control and a new "cold room" (a walk-in refrigerated room which is used for any experiments which must be done in a cold environment). The labs have been rewired for faster internet connections, and a floor-wide system was created to generate the 100 percent pure distilled water that is literally the lifeblood for virtually every laboratory experiment.

With these and numerous other improvements, the Columbia University labs will continue to serve as the staging area for conducting some of the most important research on Parkinson's disease in the world.