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.