Hormonal Changes and Frailty in Older Adults

The work of Anne R. Cappola, MD, ScM, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism and Director, Center for Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania, focuses mainly on hormonal changes and frailty in older adults. More specifically, her research looks at thyroid disease and what levels are actually “normal” for older adults and how these levels change as we age, as well as frailty and how the impact of exercise, especially resistance training, can help improve the mobility of frail older adults.

Most recently, Dr. Cappola was named one of the recipients of this year’s Outstanding Statistical Application Award from the American Statistical Association. The goal of the paper leading to this award for Dr. Cappola and her colleagues — including fellow Penn Medicine researcher and award recipient, Wensheng Guo, PhD — was to demonstrate their model for complex hormonal data which monitors multiple hormones and their relationship to one another at the same time in order to observe their patterns. Recognizing these patterns in older adults is important because it is not always the level of their hormones that changes, but it is the way that their bodies are able to adapt to the patterns that changes, and through this model, Dr. Cappola and her team are able to pick up on these relationships.

Learn more about Dr. Cappola’s research in the video below:


Penn’s 4th Annual 5K for the IOA and The Memory Mile Walk!

The 4th Annual 5K for the IOA & The Memory Mile Walk is now in the books!

_DB49093On Sunday, September 20, 2015, a record 435 committed Penn faculty, staff and friends and families of those affected by age-related diseases were up early on a windy, late summer morning to run and walk to raise money and awareness for the work of the IOA. This was the largest turnout for the event since it began in 2012.

The 3.1 mile run started at Franklin Field and took participants through Penn Park with skyline views of Center City from West Philadelphia. The Memory Mile Walk wound walkers down Locust Walk and through the scenic Penn campus. This year, leashed dogs were permitted to tag along for the Memory Mile walk. The top three male and female runners in several different age groups were given awards, while the top overall runners, James Murphy (16:45) and Zandra Walton (19:40) received special prizes, Philadelphia Runner gift certificates.

The annual 5K for the IOA and Memory Mile walk has become a tradition at Penn Medicine. Over the past four years, the event has raised more than $170,000 in support of basic and clinical research into normal aging processes and age-related diseases. This includes disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as osteoporosis and frailty, and more.

“This event is a wonderful way to celebrate the progress we have made in better understanding the mechanisms involved in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s and age-related diseases,” John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Institute on Aging, told the crowd on race day. “The money it raises also helps us on our mission to someday eradicate these often devastating diseases.” Trojanowski works closely with Virginia M.Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR). The IOA collaborates across Penn Medicine, with the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR), the Penn Memory Center, Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Udall Center for Parkinson’s Disease Research.

“It is truly a race against time in aging research,” said P.J. Brennan, MD, chief medical officer for Penn Medicine and organizer of the race. “With the population aging, we need the research dollars so that we can increase the treatment options for the growing number of patients with Alzheimer’s and aging-related disorders.”

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For more photos from the 5k for the IOA & The Memory Mile Walk, visit our Facebook page.
For the full list of race results, visit Run the Day.

Published by: Lee-Ann Donegan, Penn Medicine Communications and Nicolette Patete, Institute on Aging

Penn Medical Panel Reimagines End-of-life Care

Published by: Terrence Casey, Social Media and Communications Coordinator, Penn Memory Center

When facing their own mortality, people tend to reevaluate their top priority in life. Is it enough simply to exist? Or is a life without happiness or comfort worth the pain and suffering that comes with terminal illness? This was one issue tackled by a panel of University of Pennsylvania medical experts during “Reimagining the End of Life,” moderated by health journalist Jackie Judd on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

terryguestblog_endoflifepic1“The end of life leads to lots of existential questions,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn.

For example: “Have I lived a meaningful life?”

“Think about what word you would put in there,” he told the crowd of more than 100. “The reason I use the word ‘meaningful’ is because it’s not about me.”

But for many patients, the top priority at the end of life isn’t complex, said Dr. Jason Karlawish, Co-Director of the Penn Memory Center and Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy. “When people perceive that their time is limited…you see consistently across studies…a focus on present pleasures,” he said. For some, that may be healthy hobbies like crossword puzzles; for others, it could be unhealthy habits from the past like smoking.

In his experience with the Penn Memory Center, Dr. Karlawish saw that many patients sought to organize their affairs well before the end was in sight. “Seventy-five percent wanted help planning for the future,” said Dr. Karlawish, who has previously argued that this planning goes beyond physical health and includes financial planning he calls “wealth care.”

In many ways, the survival-focused efforts of healthcare late in life have taken humanity out of the death of humans, argued Dr. Salimah Meghani, Associate Professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences.

“Death has become a medical event,” she said, referencing a report written by the Institute of Medicine Study Committee, of which she was a member. “We have evolved into almost a new species. We have lost what makes us human,” she said. She, like her fellow panelists, spoke in favor of palliative care for the elderly and seriously ill.

Dr. Karlawish said society still has many hurdles ahead on the path towards proper end-of-life care, but noted the arc of history “is bending toward something better than what he have.”

“I’m beginning to see a change in the conversation on death and dying,” he said.


Dr. Meghani is also a member of the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, which held the event.

CNDR’s Student Internship Program 2015: Training the Next Generation

Four students share their experience gaining hands-on laboratory skills through the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research’s Student Internship Program here at the University of Pennsylvania.

Each year, Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) trains college and high school level students on a variety of skills from basic scientific research to general lab safety. Through this program, students are given the opportunity to work on real research projects under the guidance of experienced mentors and explore their interests in the field of research and medicine. They will leave this program with a foundation in basic and translational research as well as related disciplines in preparation for a future career as an independent investigator.

At the end of each summer, students give individual presentations to acknowledge their work and contributions to neurodegenerative disease research. See the student presentations below:

“Quantifying Pathology of AD” presented by Heather Kim

“Quantification of Alpha-synuclein Pathology in Fibril-Injected Mice” presented by Jonathan Tang

“RNA-Seq Analysis of a New Mouse Model of TDP-43 Proteinopathy” presented by Claudia Cheung

“Immunohistochemistry” presented by Eric Tsimberg

For more information on CNDR’s training opportunities, click here.

Misfolded Proteins: The Core Problem in Neurodegenerative Disease

John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Director, Penn’s Institute on Aging, Penn’s Udall Center for Parkinson’s Research, and Penn’s Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center, demonstrates how misfolded proteins, the underlying problem behind neurodegenerative disease, cause disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as their contribution to cell-to-cell transmission.


Dive In to This Week’s Wave of Alzheimer’s News – 7/23/15

This week, we seem to be experiencing a wave of Alzheimer’s related news ranging from research breakthroughs, risks and detection to potential treatment options. We’ve compiled a list of this week’s most popular hot topics circulating the internet to catch you up to speed. Here’s the recap…

‘Penn Scientists Make Breakthrough in Alzheimer’s Disease Research’

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11.50.50 AMIOA Director, John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, and research partner Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, Director of Penn’s Center of Neurodegenerative Disease Research, were featured in 6ABC’s “Philly Leading the Way” series to discuss their research in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Based on their findings, Alzheimer’s is directly related to a protein in the brain called Tau, which “misfolds” and triggers abnormal tangles to spread from cell to cell, ultimately causing the disease.

This groundbreaking discovery opens the door to the much needed and highly anticipated potential for treatment. If science can find a way to stop the cell-to-cell spread, they can ultimately halt the development of Alzheimer’s before the disease progresses too far.

To view the full 6ABC segment, click here.

‘New Drug May Attack Alzheimer’s Underlying Cause, Study Finds’

A CBS News story this week highlights the experimental drug, solanezumab, and its potential to attack the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease progression. While the results of the study have not been incredibly dramatic, over a course of two years it has shown a decline in how mildly impaired patients lost memory function. The drug, administered every 4 weeks through IV, poses virtually no serious side effects and has proved to reduce amyloid plaques in the brains of mouse models, sparking hope for future patient trials down the line.

To view the full “CBS This Morning” segment, click here.

‘Could a Saliva test help spot Alzheimer’s?’

In another CBS News feature this week, “scientists say a test based on a patient’s saliva might someday help detect Alzheimer’s disease.” In a recent study, scientists from the University of Alberta in Canada tested the saliva of 22 people with AD, 25 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and 35 cognitively normal individuals. Their findings showed that the saliva of those diagnosed with AD had different levels of certain substances compared to the healthy controls and those with MCI. While the results show hope for a potential breakthrough in the field of Alzheimer’s, much more research is needed to validate any certainty in the correlation.

To view the full CBS News story, click here.

‘Sleep Could Help Stave Off Alzheimer’s and Memory Loss, According to New Study’

According to a new study highlighted this week on HuffPost Healthy Living, poor sleep patterns in older adults may be linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found “that poor sleep not only hinders the brain’s ability to save new memories, but also creates a channel through which this Alzheimer’s-triggering protein (beta-amyloid) is able to travel and attack long-term memory storage.” While this study, currently being conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, is not the first to look at the connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s, it is one of the first of its kind to use human subjects.

To read the full feature of this study, which was published in Nature Neuroscience earlier this week, via HuffPost Healthy Living, click here.

‘Too much TV could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s, study suggests’

Just as too little sleep may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, too much of something else may increase the chance as well. A new study featured by the Washington Post “found that people who watched a lot of television — namely, four hours or more per day — scored significantly lower on measures of cognitive performance in middle age,” according to its investigators at the Northern California Institute for Research and Education in San Francisco. It also showed similar results for those who reported low levels of physical activity. These findings “suggest that sedentary habits set early in life can perhaps have an impact on one’s dementia risk in midlife and later.”

To view the full Washington Post feature, click here.

This Week’s Wave

Many of the stories emerging this week are a result of the annual Alzheimer’s Association Conference currently being held in Washington, DC. During this time, Alzheimer’s disease researchers from around the globe join together to discuss their findings and future research, all working towards the mutual goal of combatting this debilitating disease.

Penn’s 5K for the IOA and the Memory Mile Walk

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 1.09.32 PMJust like these scientists and researchers, there are people around the world who are doing all that they can to help in this fight against Alzheimer’s disease, but without financial support, there is only so much that can be done.

Here at Penn Medicine, we are hosting our Fourth Annual 5K for the IOA and Memory Mile Walk to help raise funds to support Alzheimer’s and aging-related research and care taking place at Penn.

For more information, or to register online, visit: www.pennmedicine.org/5kioa

Safe Travels: Considerations for Senior Vacationers

Prior to Travel:

  • Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 1.53.47 PMMake sure you are up-to-date on all of your necessary vaccinations, especially when traveling overseas.
    Some destinations may require certain vaccinations before departing, in some cases – up to six weeks before you leave.
  • Inform your healthcare provider of your plans and excursions and discuss any specific travel precautions you should take.
  • If you are on daily medications, ask your healthcare provider about whether you should switch to the local time zone or stick to your usual home time zone, as well as if there are any cultural foods that may interact with your medications.
  • If you or someone you are traveling with is physically disabled, be sure to arrange the necessary accommodations prior to departure. Airports offer wheelchairs and other wheeled devices to assist in your travels, but it is best to plan ahead and know exactly how to be granted these special requests to avoid any confusion or delays. It is also good to speak directly with someone from your hotel to address your needs and make sure all of your reservations offer handicap accessible features.

While Traveling:

  • Keep a written list of all medications, dosages, and medication times from your healthcare provider or pharmacist. This will help with any issues passing through customs or if you lose your medications and need to get replacements. Make two copies; carry one with you and keep one in your suitcase.
  • To protect yourself from deep-vein thrombosis, or blood clots, try to avoid sitting or long periods of time as much as possible. Some research finds wearing special “compression stockings” can help prevent this damage, but consult with your healthcare provider if you are scheduled for a long flight, train or car ride.
  • Stay hydrated. Older adults are particularly prone to dehydration. If you are flying, the air inside of planes can be very dry. Bring a large bottle of water or ask for some every time a flight attendant offers a drink. Once you arrive at your destination, it is important to make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water on a regular basis. It is easy  to fall short when you are out of your home routine, but this will keep you feeling hydrated and energized and minimize your chances of falling ill while traveling.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Older adults are more susceptible to sunburn, so try to stay in the shade as much as possible during peak hours and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen at all times. It is also important to check all of your medications for sun-related warnings, as some may further increase sensitivity to UVA and UVB rays.
Tips courtesy of healthinaging.org and nyp.org.
Photo courtesy of traveltips.usa.com.