Take 5: Psychiatrist and neurosurgeon Dr. Eugene Redmond

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(Photo by Michael Marsland)

Take 5 offers a brief introduction to Yale faculty members in a Q&A format. The featured faculty member selects 5 out of 10 questions to answer. Any opinions shared are not necessarily those of YaleNews.

Dr. D. Eugene (Gene) Redmond, professor of psychiatry and neurosurgery at the School of Medicine, works on developing stem cell treatments for Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and spinal cord injury, and on using modified viruses to deliver genes to the brain. He came to Yale from the National Institute of Mental Health, where he began his research studies on the brain. After arriving at Yale, he focused on determining the functions of the main nuclei for the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine and published hypotheses linking the norepinephrine system with anxiety and drug withdrawal syndromes. He, along with two colleagues, won the national research prize from the American Psychiatric Association for this work, which was featured in The New York Times and other media. His current research includes studying the dopamine systems and their role in Parkinson’s disease.

 

What scholarly/research projects are you working on now?

I am collaborating with several leading stem cell groups to start stem cell clinical trials in patients and finishing some studies that use viral vectors to insert therapeutic genes into the brain. A new study with another collaborator is attempting to characterize every distinctive cell type in the primate brain and map its location using new genomics methods. 

What world problem would you fix, if you could?

Right now, I would stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa before it gets even more out of control. After spending time in Liberia as a medical student, I have an appreciation for how serious the problem is and how ineffective the present efforts are likely to be.

What is your most treasured classroom memory — either as a student or a teacher?

My most exciting moment in research occurred, not in a classroom, but at the bedside of a heroin addict who was in the agony of major drug withdrawal. My postdoctoral student and I administered a drug called clonidine that had been predicted from electrophysiological studies to turn off the central norepinephrine systems and, if these were key to withdrawal, to stop it. The result was dramatic; the withdrawal appeared to vanish within minutes. The patient’s agony stopped. There was no doubt that it worked from just this one patient, although we studied and published the results from 10 patients.  Previously, there was no known drug that stopped heroin withdrawal that was not itself another opiate.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy cooking and entertaining. I love sports and outdoor adventures. I play squash, ski, and bicycle, but when I can, I like adventurous travel — climbing volcanoes and mountains, and white water rafting. I have climbed the Matterhorn and Mt. Kilimanjaro; I’ve been on African safaris; I’ve rafted the Zambezi River, the Grand Canyon, and the Bio Bio River in Chile; and I’ve sea-kayaked Glacier Bay in Alaska. At my Caribbean lab, I love to snorkel and spear fish. I love music, especially classical, opera, and folk. There’s nothing like Opera at the Metropolitan, New Music New Haven at Sprague Hall, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, or Yale Philharmonia in Woolsey Hall, or chamber concerts in my house.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do — either professionally or personally — that you haven’t yet?

I’d like to cure Parkinson’s disease with stem cells or figure out how to reverse aging — not make people just live longer but keep them young and vital. Don’t roll your eyes, these things will happen. I just hope to contribute and maybe see them become a reality.

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