Puneet Opal, MD, PhD
Photo: Puneet Opal



Elected 2013

Dr. Puneet Opal is an Associate Professor of Neurology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He holds additional faculty appointments in the department of Cell and Molecular Biology and the Interdepartmental Program in Neuroscience. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Dr. Opal runs a neurological practice focusing on movement disorders and disorders of the cerebellum. Dr. Opal’s research laboratory is dedicated to understanding neurodegenerative diseases. His focus is on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying genetic movement disorders.

His current projects focus on dissecting the pathogenesis of polyglutamine disorders, genetic diseases that cause progressive neurodegeneration. Using spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) as a model, he has made important contributions to understanding the role of transcriptional misregulations, particularly those mediated by alterations in histone acetylation, in mediating neurodegeneration. He has also shown that the neurotrophic and angiogenic factor VEGF is downregulated in SCA1 and that VEGF replenishment ameliorates the phenotype in SCA1 mice (Cvetanovic et al., Nature Medicine, 2011). This indicates an important crosstalk between the degenerating nervous system and its microvasculature, and from a translational viewpoint suggests the possibility of VEGF replacement for the treatment of SCA1.

His work has been widely published, and he has been invited to present his work at selective symposia and at major universities both nationally and abroad. Dr. Opal has received major research awards from the NIH, the American Cancer Society, the National Ataxia Foundation, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and the Brain Research Foundation. He has been elected member of the American Neurological Association. As Director of the Physician-Scientist Training Program at Northwestern, he takes special pride in his role as mentor for the next generation of physicians interested in cutting-edge translational research.