Press Release

3 Apr 2014

Van Andel Institute featured as AOL “Cause Of The Day” to highlight Parkinson’s research

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Feature will highlight story of West Michigan basketball legend and Parkinson’s patient Steve Majerle

Grand Rapids, Mich. (April 3, 2013) – Van Andel Institute is being featured Thursday, April 4 and later in the month of April as the “Cause of the Day” button on AOL.com.

AOL.com is visited by approximately 12 – 14.5 million people daily.  This unique global asset provides a rare opportunity to educate consumers and connect them with non-profit organizations that are on a mission to change the world, such as Van Andel Institute.  “Cause of the Day” buttons average approximately 7,500 click-throughs daily.

The AOL.com “Cause of the Day” will highlight Parkinson’s disease research at Van Andel Institute through the story of West Michigan basketball legend and Parkinson’s patient Steve Majerle.

Parkinson’s forced Steve Majerle to walk away from the hardcourt and a basketball dynasty at Rockford High School that included a state championship and a perfect 28-0 season. Thanks to deep brain stimulation surgery, Steve Majerle got back in the game this year, leading Grand Rapids Christian High School all the way to the state semifinals where they lost to eventual Class A champ Romulus.

The AOL.com feature coincides with Parkinson’s Awareness Month and enables Van Andel Institute to highlight an impressive number of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative breakthroughs that have followed the 2011 appointment of Dr. Patrik Brundin as Chair of the Jay Van Andel Translational Parkinson’s Disease Research Laboratory and Director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

Van Andel Institute neurodegenerative disease research breakthroughs throughout 2012 and into early 2013 include:

  • The discovery of a new stem cell in the adult brain. These cells can proliferate and form new brain cells. Researchers hope to take advantage of the finding to develop methods to heal and repair disease and injury in the brain.
  • The restoration of brain function in a model of Huntington’s disease through the successful transplantation of Huntington’s-induced pluripotent stem cells into animal models.
  • A study detailing how Parkinson’s disease spreads through the brain. This model has never before been identified so clearly in a living organism, and the breakthrough brings researchers one step closer to a disease-modifying drug for Parkinson’s.
  • The identification of plasma-based molecular biomarkers that may one day lead to a blood test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Objective and quantifiable molecular biomarkers would be highly useful as clinical tools to detect Parkinson’s prior to the development of the disease’s motor symptoms.

AOL.com previously featured Van Andel Institute as its “Cause of the Day” on January 25, providing the Institute the opportunity to highlight its Pediatric Oncology Research Program through the story of Brooke Hester, a five-year-old patient fighting neuroblastoma with the aid of Van Andel Institute research. This national exposure resulted in a more than 1500% increase in website traffic on www.vai.org that day and more than 9,500 click-throughs on AOL’s “Cause of the Day” button.

“We truly value the chance to share the impact of Van Andel Institute’s cancer and neurodegenerative disease research with a national audience,” said Love Collins, III, Vice President of Development, Communications & Marketing. “Thanks to the opportunity provided by AOL.com, we are able to introduce thousands of individuals to our mission and ask them to join our fight.”

Please share this exciting news with your colleagues, friends and families and don’t forget to visit www.aol.com to donate. VAI hopes to garner national support through this campaign!  With your help, we can change the lives of those suffering the debilitating effects of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases.

Support vital Parkinson’s disease research at Van Andel Institute. 100% of every dollar donated through the AOL.com “Cause of the Day” campaign goes directly to Parkinson’s disease research at Van Andel Institute.

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About Van Andel Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process.  Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI’s research arm, is dedicated to studying the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of more than 200 researchers in on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. Find out more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting www.vai.org