On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, Senator Susan Collins, the United States Senator for Maine and the Chair of the Senate Aging Committee, stopped by the University of Pennsylvania to visit the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR).
During her private tour of the CNDR lab, led by CNDR Director, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, and Co-director, John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Sen. Collins was given the opportunity to examine frozen brain slices to compare the physical differences between a normal brain and an Alzheimer’s brain – the Alzheimer’s brain being significantly smaller in size. Drs. Lee and Trojanowski also showed Sen. Collins brain scans and images under the microscope to show the appearance of plaques, tangles, and Lewy bodies, all of which are key evidence of neurodegenerative disease.
Following the tour, Sen. Collins sat down to talk with Drs. Lee and Trojanowski, Perry Clark, Institute on Aging External Advisory Board Chair and avid Alzheimer’s advocate, and his wife Elaine, and Kathy Jedrziewski, PhD, Deputy Director of the Institute on Aging. Senator Collins, who also serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Alzheimer’s Task Force, had several questions about the research taking place not only here at Penn, but throughout the field of aging-related neurodegeneration in general. They discussed topics ranging from genetics to potential therapies to the growing need for additional funding.
“As the founder and Co-chair of the Senate Alzheimer’s Task Force, working to increase federal funding to fight Alzheimer’s has long been one of my top priorities. Approximately 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today, and that number is soaring as our overall population grows older and lives longer,” explained Senator Collins.
“In addition to the human toll, Alzheimer’s costs the U.S. an estimated $236 billion a year, including $160 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. With adequate funding to support the exciting research underway, we can achieve a world where Alzheimer’s can be treated effectively, cured, or prevented.”
Sen. Collins was especially intrigued with the level of collaboration in which Penn partakes with other research centers across the country. She thanked the group not only for their work in research, but also for their advocacy, saying it makes her very hopeful and excited for future advances in the field. “This is one of the most extensive and impressive briefings I’ve had,” she said.