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:

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 and
Photo courtesy of

Dr. Trojanowski joins the ranks of other Penn Neuropathologists as the 2015 AANP Meritorious Award Recipient

Congratulations to IOA Diretor, John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, on receiving the 2015 American Association of Neuropathologist (AANP) Meritorious Award.

The AANP Meritorious Award “recognizes a member who has made significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge in neuropathology and provided service to the American Association of Neuropathologists.” It acknowledges Dr. Trojanowski as “an experimental neuropathologist who has provided immense contributions to the study of neurodegenerative diseases.”

Dr. Trojanowski’s collaborative tendencies, including collaborations with pathologists, neurologists, basic scientists, and governmental, industry, and private foundations, have enabled an even broader and deeper world-wide impact.

“Dr. Trojanowski – John – embodies a spirit of excellence and passion about neuropathology, at a time when our field is thirsty for those things.”

 Aside from Dr. Trojanowski, several other neuropathologists have received this AANP award. Showcasing the impact of Penn Neuropathology, since 1999, four Penn Neuropathologists were awarded, which is more than any other institution.

Penn Awarded Neuropathologists:

  • 1999 – Lucy B. Rorke
  • 2009 – Nicholas K. Gonatas
  • 2011 – William W. Schlaepfer
  • 2015 – John Q. Trojanowski

For a full list of past awardees, click here.

Penn Memory Center Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2015

The 10th anniversary of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was internationally recognized on Monday, June 15th through events raising awareness about the public health significance of neglect and abuse of older persons. Jason Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.42.49 AMKarlawish, MD,
co-director of the Penn Memory Center
, attended the WEADD First Global Summit in Washington DC, where he was joined by other national and international leaders in elder abuse prevention. Dr. Karlawish presented on elder abuse as a public health challenge and the responsibility of public health professionals, in collaboration with banking and financial services organizations, to build a public health roadmap and infrastructure to protect the nation’s health and wealth.

Tigist Hailu, Coordinator for Diversity in Research and Education at the Penn Memory Center, attended an event titled “Healthy Mind, Healthy Wallet” at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in West Philadelphia. The event was organized by the Penn Memory Center and the new CDC-funded Penn Healthy Brain Research Center in partnership with Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s Protective Services for Older Adults, and other members of the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force. Topics presented related to protection against financial exploitation of older persons. “The fair was a great opportunity for members of First Corinthian Baptist Church and the West Philadelphia community to learn and ask questions about how to make good financial decisions as they age,” said Hailu.

Published by: Sara M. Hachey, Research Coordinator at the Penn Memory Center 

Last month, the IOA’s Sylvan M. Cohen Annual Retreat discussed a related topic focusing on Aging with Financial Security: Addressing the Challenges of Cognitive Aging. See the full recap blog here.


Behavioral Health in the Nursing Home: Building a Web One Thread at a Time

AnnKolanowskiFlyer_Opt2On Wednesday, April 29, IOA Visiting Scholar, Ann Marie Kolanowski, PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN, professor, Penn State School of Nursing, discussed her team’s research on improving behavioral health and testing non-pharmacological interventions in nursing homes.

Dr. Kolanowski explained that her work has helped to establish significant evidence for non-pharmacological approaches as the first line of treatment for behavioral issues in the elderly, especially since antipsychotic drugs have been linked to adverse effects and even increased mortality. Dr. Kolanowski’s approach relies heavily on understanding the patients interests and abilities and tailoring your approach accordingly. Intervention strategies included group and individual activities that met the needs of each specific patient. Based on this approach, Dr. Kolanowski found that the majority of patients experienced significant improvements in mood and behavior.

Dr. Kolanowski and her team have also developed the NursingHome Toolkit, an online resource with the goal of assisting nursing home staff in the implementation of these non-pharmacological strategies for the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. To view the Toolkit, visit:

View the full lecture here.