Cerebrovascular Disease and Alzheimer’s: A lecture by IOA Visiting Scholar, Richard Mayeux, MD, MSc

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 1.55.13 PMOn Thursday, November 30, 2017, the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute on Aging (IOA) hosted their last Visiting Scholars Series lecture for the 2017 season featuring Richard Mayeux, MD, MSc. Dr. Mayeux is currently the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Epidemiology in the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center and Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain. In addition, he is also the Chair of the Department of Neurology at Columbia University, New York.

Dr. Mayeux’s talk highlighted his research on cerebrovascular disease and its link to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). As described in a 2016 JAMA Neurology publication, Dr. Mayeux and his colleagues conducted a study of 6,553 participants — 4,044 women and 2,509 men with a mean age of 77 years. Upon using generalized mixed logistic regression models to test the association of cardiovascular disease (CV) risk factors with late-onset Alzheimer’s, they found that “in familial and sporadic LOAD, a history of stroke was significantly associated with increased disease risk and mediated the association between selected CV risk factors and LOAD, which appears to be independent of the LOAD-related genetic background.”

Essentially, the findings support the idea that 1) cerebrovascular disease is prevalent in the aged, and 2) cerebrovascular disease may trigger Alzheimer’s disease in a genetically susceptible person. Currently, Dr. Mayeux is working on a new grant to further investigate his idea and to look into how to handle the fact that cerebrovascular disease contributes to the phenotype of Alzheimer’s disease.

To read Dr. Mayeux’s full 2016 publication, “Contributions of cerebrovascular disease in autopsy confirmed neurodegenerative disease cases in the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center,” click here.

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The 2017 Joseph A. Pignolo Award in Aging Research: Nathan Basisty, PhD

On Wednesday, November 29, 2017, the Institute on Aging hosted their annual Joseph A. Pignolo Award in Aging Research. This year’s speaker, Nathan Basisty, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at The Buck Institute for Research on Aging, received the award for his 2016 paper titled “Mitochondrial-targeted catalase is good for the old mouse proteome, but not for the young: ‘reverse’ antagonistic pleiotropy?” published in Aging Cell.

Dr. Basisty’s research focuses heavily on the role of protein homeostasis in aging. Protein homeostasis is the process by which a cell retains an equilibrium of proteins to maintain its proper functions. According to a 2013 publication in Nature, it is believed that “a cell’s failure to maintain proper protein homeostasis has a major role in ageing and age-related diseases” (Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 14, 55-61 (2013) BH Toyama and MW Hetzer). Dr. Basisty and his team are also looking at the role of this process in longevity with several interventions intended to extend lifespan in mammals.

In terms of future research, Dr. Basisty plans on expanding his studies to focus on method development to improve how well proteins can be characterized in the cell as well as how we can characterize the way proteins are regulated — or “turnover” — in the cell.

Learn more in Dr. Basisty’s short video interview below:

Learn more about the Jospeh A. Pignolo Award in Aging Research here.

“Modeling Neurodegenerative Diseases,” CNDR’s 2017 Marian S. Ware Research Retreat

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 1.27.43 PMOn Thursday, October 19, 2017, Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) hosted its annual Marian S. Ware Research Retreat. This year’s topic was “Modeling Neurodegenerative Diseases” and featured a variety of expert speakers within the field.

“As is the tradition with CNDR retreats, every year we focus on a different aspect of neurodegenerative disease. This year, our theme was how to model the complexity of these conditions, for example at the molecular, cellular, and systems levels. The internal and external speakers provided a rich sampling of cutting-edge work being done on each of these areas,” said Kelvin Luk, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and organizer of this year’s CNDR Retreat.

“Among the highlights were the trainee presentations, while we were treated to some spectacular methods for visualizing intact tissues and modeling how disease might be spreading across the central nervous system. Our keynote speaker also finished off by giving a glimpse of the disease process as it advances in living AD patients.

Overall, I think/hope it was enjoyed by all that were present. The feedback was very positive and we were able to bring together many members of the local (Penn and extramural) community from very diverse backgrounds.” – Kelvin Luk, PhD

In addition to the lectures, the day-long event also includes an annual poster session where scientists in all stages of their career, from Penn and beyond, can present their current and recent neurodegenerative-disease related research. The top three posters are selected by experienced judges and are awarded prizes. See this year’s poster winners below!

2017 Marian S. Ware Research Retreat Poster Winners

1st Prize:

Poster Title: “Genome-wide Co-translational Decay of Canonical mRNAs”
Authors: Fadia Ibrahim, Manolis Maragkakis, Panagiotis Alexiou, and Zissimos Mourelatos
Affiliation: University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Division of Neuropathology

2nd Prize:

Poster Title: “Amnestic and Non-Amnestic Phenotypes of Alzheimer’s Disease: An MRI-Based Phasing Analysis”
Authors: Fulvio Da Re1,2,3, Jeffery S Phillips1,4, Laynie Dratch1, Carlo Ferrarese3, David J. Irwin1,4, Corey T. McMillan1,4, Eddie Lee5, Leslie M Shaw5, John Q Trojanowski5, David A Wolk4,6, and Murray Grossman1,4
Affiliation: 1) Penn FTD Center, University of Pennsylvania, 2) PhD Program in Neuroscience, University of MilanoBicocca, Milan, Italy, 3) School of Medicine and Surgery, Milan Center for Neuroscience (NeuroMI), University of MilanoBicocca, Milan, Italy, 4) Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 5) Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, University of Pennsylvania, 6) Penn Memory Center, University of Pennsylvania

3rd Prize:

Poster Title: “Tau and Synuclein: a Tojan horse in the making?”
Authors: Hannah J. Brown, Fares Bassil, Shankar Pattabhiraman, Bin Zhang, Dawn Riddle, John Q. Trojanowski, Virginia M.-Y. Lee
Affiliations: Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Institute on Aging and Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

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Full list of 2017 CNDR Retreat Speakers:Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 1.26.02 PM.

Learn more about CNDR here.

REACT! Study, Round 2, comes to a close

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The University of Pennsylvania’s Institute on Aging wrapped up their second round of the Rhythm Experience and Africana Culture Trial (REACT!) on Monday, October 9, 2017.

The trial concluded with a celebratory award ceremony which included readings, art presentations, and a dance performance by the study participants. Dara Meekins, REACT! Study Coordinator, kicked off the ceremony with a welcome speech describing the importance and impact of this clinical trial. “This study was developed to investigate a culturally important form of physical activity that could enhance the neurocognitive health and physical and emotional well-being of older African Americans,” explained Dara. “Prior studies have shown promising effects of physical activity, but REACT! specifically seeks to provide a fun, engaging, and broadly translatable platform for reducing the health disparities that currently exist for older African Americans.”

Not all clinical trials are as pleasant and many require a variety of unfavorable medical procedures or testing. “I think this study shows you that if you don’t want to be probed or prodded with needles, we can still use your help,” says Dara.

REACT!Group2_endingceremony

Lewis Reddick, REACT! education group participant, is a perfect example of the many ways this study is bettering the lives of older African Americans. “This program has let me know about things that I still can do that I thought I couldn’t, such as my reading and writing,” he explained. “I couldn’t write the way I used to, I couldn’t read the way I used to… and [this study] got me started again and it has inspired me to maybe even go back to school!”

Mr. Reddick also expressed his praise and appreciation for Dara and the rest of the REACT! team, including Samuel Gorka, study coordinator, as well as several student interns. “Everyone was kind and we had a great time!” he said. “I looked forward to everyday that I came!”

Below are some highlights from the REACT! Dance Group’s wonderful performance led by African Dance Instructor, Yattah Jones! Their performance is set to the sounds of African Conga drums and tells a story of celebration, life, vitality, harvest & rebirth through a fusion of Afro-Caribbean dance styles.

REACT! is an Alzheimer’s Association-funded research study being conducted at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh).

Learn more about the REACT! Study here.

Penn Medicine’s 6th Annual 5K for the IOA & Memory Mile Walk

It was a warm Fall morning on Sunday, September 24, 2017 as 371 runners and walkers and 70 volunteers gathered for Penn Medicine’s 6th Annual 5K for the IOA and Memory Mile Walk.

The fundraiser, which takes place throughout Penn Park and the University of Pennsylvania campus, raised a total of $49,260 this year for Alzheimer’s and aging-related disease research efforts at Penn’s Institute on Aging.

In addition to its usual run and walk, the event also included pre and post-race yoga sessions, entertainment provided by DeeJay007, and photobooth fun for the whole family. This year’s overall male winner, Alexis Tingan (pictured below, left), finished the race in 17 minutes and 35 seconds, with the overall female winner, Sara McCuaig (pictured below, right), not far behind him with a time of 19 minutes and 24 seconds.

To view the full list of race results, click here.

Last week, CBS Philly interviewed PJ Brennan, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Penn Medicine who created the event in memory of his father who lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. “I thought it would be a fun way to get my community here together and bring some attention to the work that the Institute on Aging does and raise some money for this novel research,” said Brennan during the interview.

To view more photos of the event, click here.

Advancing the Health of an Aging Population: Friends of the NIA (FoNIA) Briefing 2017

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 12.31.50 PMOn Friday, July 7, 2017, Friends of the National Institute on Aging (FoNIA) hosted its annual briefing on ‘Advancing the Health of an Aging Population.’ These briefings provide important updates on the groundbreaking research that is supported by the NIA to promote the health and well-being of older adults. While registration for this meeting is open to the public, it is most heavily attended by representatives of other aging-related organizations, advocacy groups, and staff of Senators and House Representatives.

In addition to a lecture by NIA Director, Richard J. Hodes, MD, and Deputy Director, Marie A. Bernard, MD, this year also featured a presentation by Penn Medicine’s David J. Irwin, MD, MSTR, assistant professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and clinical neurologist at the Penn FTD Center. Dr. Irwin’s presentation titled “Bringing the microscope to clinic: improving the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders” discussed some of the current challenges of diagnosing Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions and how researchers at Penn and beyond are working to overcome these challenges through a variety of studies. Dr. Irwin also stressed the vital role that NIA and other institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) play in making this research possible.

 “As a junior investigator, this has been a very exciting time for me to start my career with a rapid advance in our understanding of the genetics and pathophysiology of AD and related conditions – these advances would not be possible without publicly-funded programs through the NIA, NINDS and other institutes at NIH,” said Dr. Irwin. “I am very enthusiastic and thankful to have the opportunity to help advocate for the mission of the NIA, as this directly leads to the improvement in the care of patients I treat with AD and related disorders.”

Full presentation slides:

Kathy Jedrziewski, PhD, Deputy Director of the Institute on Aging, is the current Chair of Friends of the NIA (FoNIA). For more information on FoNIA, click here

Full 2017 FoNIA Briefing Flyer

The 14th Annual Jane Wright Symposium on Parkinson’s Disease for Patients and Caregivers

Published by Benjamin Deck, Udall Coordinator 

The 14th annual Jane Wright conference was held on June 15th at the Sheraton Hotel on City Line Avenue in Philadelphia, PA. The Jane Wright conference is an annual symposium that brings together the local Parkinson’s community to hear presentations around a central theme and to make people with Parkinson’s (PwP) and their loved ones aware of available resources. The theme this year was, “Hot Topics in Parkinson’s Disease” and the attendance reached an all-time high of over 200 people.

Professor Emeritus of Neurology, Dr. Matthew Stern, MD opened the conference with his lecture on Parkinson’s history and discussed updates to James Parkinson’s original definition of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Some of the issues Dr. Stern outlined were disparate pathologies in PD, PD subtypes, and the idea that current diagnostic criteria do not allow for early diagnosis in PD. One precluding factor of early diagnosis is that motor symptoms are typically not present until later stages of the disease.

The second speaker was the newly appointed Director of Medicine at the Penn Neurological Institute, Dr. Andrew Siderowf, MD. Dr. Siderowf presented new therapeutics in PD such as Safinamide, Rytary, Droxidopa, and Primavanserin. Dr. Siderowf’s presentation also touched on newer surgical interventions for PD such as Focused Ultrasound and Duopa. The presentation then focused on disease modifying procedures and medications that are currently under development, i.e. gene therapy, alpha synuclein anti-body trials, and treatments specialized for specific genetic mutations in PD. View his presentation here.

Assistant Professor of Neurology, Dr. Lama Chahine, MD, spoke of biomarkers and the crucial role that they will play in the diagnosis, prognostication, and treatment of PD. Dr. Chahine made the compelling case for further research on biomarkers in PD by showing the subjectivity of in-clinic motor exams, which are currently the gold standard for a PD diagnosis in movement disorder clinics. Dr. Chahine emphasized that biomarker discovery in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), blood, and tissue sampling (collected most recently for this trial), could one day diagnose patients earlier and/or better treat the disease.

The final speaker at this year’s Jane Wright Conference was Movement Disorders Fellow, Dr. Michelle Fullard, MD. Dr. Fullard’s presentation outlined the recent technological advances that are helping to deliver better and more accessible treatments. Telemedicine has been implemented in many clinics and decreases travel burden for PD patients who often find this to be a barrier to quality care. Telemedicine allows physicians to remotely diagnose and treat individuals through the use of telecommunications technology. Dr. Fullard also discussed wearable devices that can track a PD patient’s movements through the use of accelerometers and other such technology. The hope its that these devices would allow movement disorder specialists to better understand the motor complications of their patients.

JW Symposium 2017 picture

Lastly, Dr. Stern was awarded an Proclamation signed by Mayor Jim Kenney that decrees April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month in Philadelphia. The proclamation was presented by Ms. Lori Katz and a represenative from Mayor Kenney’s office (pictured above).

View all presentation slides here.