sealPurdue News

May 13, 2002

Purdue biologist honored for his work in vision

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The scientific contributions of distinguished Professor William L. Pak will be highlighted May 17-18 in a special symposium at Purdue University.

Former students, research associates and colleagues will gather on the Purdue campus for a series of lectures, scientific presentations and a banquet to recognize Pak's 70th birthday and pay tribute to his scientific achievements. The event is sponsored by Purdue's Department of Biological Sciences.

Pak, who is the Paul E. Oreffice Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, is widely recognized for his research on the genetic and molecular basis of vision and the degeneration of the retina with age. His molecular genetic studies of Drosophila, or fruit fly, mutants helped scientists identify the genes responsible for retinitis pigmentosa, the most common and serious inherited cause of blindness in humans.

In recent years, Pak has extended the molecular genetic approach to the study of synaptic transmission, the process whereby one nerve cell relays a signal to other nerve cells. In 1999, his research group discovered a gene in fruit flies that may play a key role in regulating the flow of calcium into cells. The findings may help answer long-standing questions about how these calcium channels work, and may have implications for treating some degenerative eye and brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, that have been linked to a buildup of calcium in the cell.

Further information on the celebration may be obtained by calling Linda Johnson in Purdue's Department of Biological Sciences, (765) 494-4408,

CONTACT: Linda Johnson, Department of Biological Sciences, (765) 494-4408,; Susan Gaidos, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2081,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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