Activating and Remodeling Dysfunctional Brain Circuits using Deep Brain Stimulation in Alzheimer’s Disease

Last week, the Institute on Aging wrapped up their 2015 Visiting Scholars Series with Andres Lozano, MD, PhD, Chair, Division of Neurosurgery at University of Toronto. Dr. Lozano is a neurosurgeon interested in developing novel therapies to treat neurologic and psychiatric disorders. He is particularly interested in functional neurosurgery, which is aimed at improving the function of the brain.

One technique commonly used is Deep Brain Stimulation, a procedure that involves placing electrodes in brain to chronically deliver electricity to any malfunctioning brain circuits 24 hours a day. This technique is currently being used to treat an estimated 125,000 Parkinson’s disease patients throughout the world and is now being explored as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Rather than connecting the electrodes to the circuits that control movement, as they do in Parkinson’s patients, Dr. Lozano and his team are looking into targeting the circuits that control memory and cognition to assess the safety and potential benefit for Alzheimer’s patients.

Learn more about Dr. Lozano and his research using deep brain stimulation here:


“Comparative effectiveness research on home-and-community based practices.”

This week, the IOA welcomed Christopher Murtaugh, PhD, Associate Director of the Research Center at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, to the University of Pennsylvania to present “Comparative effectiveness research on home-and-community based practices.”

Dr. Murtaugh started his career as a graduate student at Yale University conducting research on the nursing home population using large data set analysis. Following his dissertation, he went on to work for what is now the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality and continued focusing on primarily nursing home care as well as looking at national surveys in terms of the experience of elders and their functional disabilities and transitions over time, all using national, publicly available data sets in addition to Medicare claims data.

Several years later, Dr. Murtaugh decided to move towards community-based care, an area that he has concentrated on for the past 19 years. In his role as associate director, he focuses on increasing funding to conduct research that is critical to informing evidence based around the value of home-and-community based care and to translate their findings for use both by practitioners and policy makers. He has experience in research on the funding of home-and-community based care and alternative approaches, not exclusively on patient functionality and other outcomes, but also how the system is financed and how we might better pay for the type of care that elders need.

Learn more about Dr. Murtaugh’s work here:

* Mary Naylor, PhD, FAAN, RN (reference by Dr. Murtugh) is the Marian S. Ware Professor in Gerontology and the Director of the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health at the University of Pennsylvania.

Vincent J. Cristofalo Lectureship 2015: Local and systemic regulators of tissue aging

Last week, the Institute on Aging hosted its annual Vincent J. Cristofalo Lectureship at the University of Pennsylvania. This year’s topic, presented by keynote speaker Amy Wagers, PhD, Forst Family Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University, was “Local and systemic regulators of tissue aging.”

Dr. Wagers’ lab focuses on tissues and how they maintain themselves and regenerate throughout life as well demonstrating the changes in muscle function caused by age, as muscle tissue declines and is replaced with fat and fibrous tissue instead. Another research area they have explored is looking at how wiring of pathways change with age and the factors that regulate satellite cell aging.

With that said, one major goal of Dr. Wagers’ lab is to uncover whether or not there are regulators of muscle tissue function found in the blood. In collaboration with an outside contractor, they were able to discover growth factors present in the bloodstream of old and young mice leading to the identification of proteins GDF8 and GDF11 as essential in the development of, or lack of, muscle tissue.

After initially testing on cows, Dr. Wagers and her colleagues moved to a mouse model. They injected raised levels of GDF11 in old mice to equal the amount of tissue that they would have had as young mice and observed a reduction in heart size, remodeling of skeletal fibers, improved muscle repair activity and genomic activity, increased neural stem cells and improvement in blood flow and vasculature as well as improved grip strength and exercise endurance ability. These results showed that the loss of the protein GDF11 could not only lead to declining function in muscle tissue, but in many other tissues of the body as well.

With this in mind, we can determine that aging clearly has an effect on muscle, both local and systemic. Fully understanding its regenerative potential may lead to therapeutic targets for future medications and therapies aiming to stop or slow the process of tissue aging.

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For more information on Amy Wagers, PhD and her lab, visit: Wagers Laboratory

For more information on the Cristofalo Annual Lectureship, visit: Cristofalo Lectureship

Purposely Planning Your Encore (Retirement) Career

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

On Monday, October 19, the Division of Human Resources and the Institute on Aging at the University of Pennsylvania welcomed Willo Carey, Manager of Donor Relations, WHYY, to present “Purposely Planning Your Encore (Retirement) Career” exclusively to Penn faculty and staff. The talk focused on changing the way that we think about retirement — rather than considering it the end of our career, we should think of it as the start of our new calling, or our “encore.” So many individuals put their true passions or interests on hold while they are busy focusing on their careers. With that in mind, Willo encourages taking advantage of this “second half of life” and using it as an opportunity to explore something new, discover who you really are outside of your job title, and to finding true fulfillment in your new daily routine.

For more motivation and ideas, visit WHYY’s Wider Horizons “Coming of Age” radio series. “Coming of Age” features dozens of inspiring stories from individuals in their “second half of life” who have found new interests and purpose outside of their previous careers.

Meet Perry Clark, New Institute on Aging External Advisory Board Chair

“One of my husband’s favorite sayings is, “everything has a shelf life, and you have to know when that shelf life is over,” said Orien Reid Nix, former Institute on Aging (IOA) External Advisory Board (EAB) Chair. After a little over five years as Chair, she has decided to step down, explaining that she feels that her “shelf life” as Chair has simply come to an end. While she will still remain involved with the IOA EAB, her responsibilities in her personal life will need to take precedent over her responsibilities as Chair.

perryclarkpic(edit)In an essentially seamless transition, dedicated IOA EAB member Perry Clark will resume the position as Chair. The decision was announced at the IOA’s recent Fall 2015 External Advisory Board meeting, a meeting that is held two times per year. Mr. Clark graciously opened the meeting with thanks to all of the IOA staff, collaborators, and his fellow EAB members. He explained that his goal as IOA EAB Chair will be to help other members to be more engaged with supporting the mission of the IOA and to serve as a facilitator for communication between the EAB members and the IOA administrators. He will also continue to do everything that he can to “increase public awareness of the work of the IOA and philanthropic support for that work.”

Perry Clark has been a member of the IOA EAB since 2013 after being given the opportunity to meet with IOA Director, John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD and his wife, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) Director, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, following the loss of his sister to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease years prior.

“In response to that, my wife and I resolved that we should do what we could to support research into neurodegenerative diseases. That is the reason that we volunteered to participate in research studies at Boston University. Our involvement with the External Advisory Board is an extension of our advocacy for increased funding for the development of treatments for these diseases.” – Perry Clark

Perry Clark dedicates a great deal of his time to giving presentations in his home state of Maine on Alzheimer’s disease and related topics. He has covered topics on Alzheimer’s pathology, risk factors, and incidence, as well as the goal and significance of research studies, current clinical trials, brain health, and the importance of increased research funding and how this will lead to quicker development of therapies for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.


Left to right: Kathy Jedrziewski, PhD (Deputy Director, IOA), Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD (Director, CNDR), John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD (Director, IOA), Orien Reid Nix (former IOA EAB Chair), Elaine Clark, Perry Clark (Chair, IOA EAB)

Mr. Clark received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. Upon graduation, he became a VISTA volunteer, and subsequently supervisor, of the VISTA program in Clay and Jackson Counties in eastern Kentucky. Upon graduating from the University of Maine School of Law in 1973, Mr. Clark practiced law in Westbrook, Maine, until his retirement in 2014. Mr. Clark is a past President of the Cumberland County Extension Association, which governs the administration of Cooperative Extension programs in the county. In 1982, he received the Association’s Outstanding Citizen Award. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and the Treasurer of the Friends School of Portland. Together with his wife, Elaine, Mr. Clark participates in the Health Outreach Program for the Elderly (HOPE) and the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative 2 (ADNI) research studies at Boston University.

Meet the rest of our IOA External Advisory Board members here!

CNDR Retreat 2015: “Focusing on Parkinson’s Disease Alpha-Synuclein at the University of Pennsylvania”

Last Wednesday, October 7, 2015, Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) hosted their 15th Annual Marian S. Ware Research Retreat. This year, the theme was “Focusing on Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Alpha-synuclein at the University of Pennsylvania,” which included lectures from thirteen different University of Pennsylvania researchers (listed below) from the Perelman School of Medicine, School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who are working on this protein and its role in PD.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 2.14.15 PM

With over 150 guests and 26 posters, the day-long event was yet another success. The posters covered topics not only related to alpha-synuclein and PD, but a variety of other ongoing clinical and basic research studies on PD and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As usual, prizes were awarded to the top three posters.

1st Place Poster Winner

cndrretreat15_1stplaceTitle: Dopamine induces toxic oligomers of a-synuclein leading to neurodegeneration and motor impairment in vivo

Authors: Danielle Mor1,2 (pictured center, with CNDR Director, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD [left] and Director of CNDR Drug Discovery, Kurt Brunden, PhD[right]); Elpida Tsika3; Joseph R. Mazzulli4; Jennifer Grossman5; John H. Wolfe2,6,7; Harry Ischiropoulos1,2,7

Affiliations: 1 Department of Neuroscience, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; 2 Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute; 3 Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland; 4 Department of Neurology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; 5 Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University, New York, NY; 6 Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine; 7 Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

2nd Place Poster Winner

cndrretreat15_2ndplaceTitle: The Super Elongation Complex (SEC) modulates TDP-43 and G4C2 hexanucleotide repeat toxicity in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease models

Authors: Chia-Yu Chung (pictured), Nancy Bonini

Affiliation: Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania



3rd Place Poster Winner

cndrretreat15_3rdplaceTitle: Can drug-induced Parkinsonism reveal pre-motor Parkinson disease?

Authors: James F. Morley (pictured), Gang Cheng, Jacob G. Dubroff, Jayne R. Wilkinson, John E. Duda

Affiliations: PADRECC and Nuclear Medicine, PVAMC.  Departments of Neurology and Radiology PSOM



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For more information on Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, visit:

A Gift to Make a Difference: 13-year-old uses birthday to raise funds for aging research at Penn

If you were to ask teenagers today what they’d like as a birthday present, most would probably say the latest iPhone, video game, or fashion trend, but that’s not the case with 13-year-old Hannah Jin. While planning her birthday celebration this past August, Hannah decided she wanted to try something different this year — instead of receiving gifts, she wanted to give.

Hannah nixed her plans for a birthday party and started planning her “giving” party. In lieu of presents, Hannah requested her guests consider making a donation to one of two particular causes — a local food bank and Penn’s 5K for the IOA. Penn’s 5K for the IOA & The Memory Mile Walk is an annual Penn Medicine event which raises funds for Alzheimer’s and aging-related research and care at the Institute on Aging. Having a personal connection to this cause — a grandfather with memory loss and a mother who works in ADRD* research here at Penn — Hannah was excited to contribute. With the help of family and friends, Hannah raised a total of $100 for the 5K.

To some, that may not seem like much, but at a time when the cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients is over $200 billion and the amount of federal funding is low, every dollar counts. Moreover, it is refreshing to see the younger generation showing concern and interest in aiding in the fight against such diseases.

Hannah encourages others her age to consider “giving” parties as well. Not only is it “a lot of fun,” but it is also rewarding to help make a difference and see others’ willingness to “do good,” she said.

To make a gift to Penn’s Institute on Aging, visit our Giving page,

or contact: Elizabeth Yannes, Penn Medicine Development  or  215-573-4961

* Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders