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.

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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.

 

Genetics of Aging-Related Neurodegeneration: The Sylvan M. Cohen Annual Retreat & Poster Session 2017

077On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the Institute on Aging (IOA) hosted their annual Sylvan M. Cohen Retreat and Poster Session in collaboration with co-sponsors, the Penn Neurodegeneration Genomics Center (PNGC).

The 2017 retreat focused on the ‘Genetics of Aging-related Neurodegeneration’ and for the second year in a row, it began with opening remarks from the Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD. “I’m mainly here to thank you for your scientific collaboration,” said Dean Jameson. He used this time to express the importance and impact of these contributions in the field of genetics and aging, especially in trying to solve the puzzle of very complex conditions such as neurodegeneration.

Lectures were presented by Penn’s Gerard (Jerry) D. Schellenberg, PhD, Director of the PNGC, Adam Naj, PhD, Assistant professor of Epidemiology in Biostatistics and Epidemiology, and Nancy Zhang, PhD, Assistant professor of Statistics, as well as this year’s keynote speaker, Philip De Jager, MD, PhD, Associate Neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Lectures:

  • “Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics; Progress in Gene Therapy” – Jerry Schellenberg, PhD
  • “Genetic Risk Factors Associated with Coincident Alzheimer’s and Parkinson Disease in Neuropathologically Confirmed Cases” – Adam Naj, PhD
  • “Structural Variant Profiling in Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics” – Nancy Zhang, PhD
  • “The molecular network map of the aging cortex: v1.0: an integrative approach targets the epigenomic and inflammatory components of Tau pathology” – Philip De Jager, MD, PhD

As usual, the event concluded with the annual poster session on aging. Prizes were awarded to the top posters in each of the following categories: Basic Science and Clinical Research/Education & Community.

Poster Winners:

BASIC SCIENCE:

1st Place:

172Title: “Integrative analysis identifies immune-related enhancers and IncRNAs perturbed by genetic variants associated with Alzheimer’s disease”
Presenter: Alexandre Amlie-Wolf
Authors: Alexandre Amlie-Wolf, Mitchell Tang, Jessica King, Beth Dombroski, Elizabeth Mlynarski,Yi-Fan Chou, Gerard D. Schellenberg, Li-San Wang
Affiliation(s): University of Pennsylvania, Genomics and Computational Biology Graduate Group

2nd Place:

173Title: “Differential Vulnerability to a-synuclein Pathology Among Neuronal Subpopulations”
Presenter: Luna Esteban
Authors: Luna Esteban, Dawn M. Riddle, Virginia M.Y. Lee, Kelvin C. Luk
Affiliation(s): Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research

 


Clinical Research/Education & Community

1st Place:

175Title: “Correlates of Sleep Indices Among Community Dwelling Older Adults Enrolled in a Collaborative Care Management Program”
Presenter: Ashik Ansar
Authors: Ashik Ansar, MD, PhD, Shahrzad Mavandadi, PhD, Kristin Foust, Suzanne DiFilippo, RN, Joel E.. Streim, MD, David W. Oslin, MD
Affiliation(s): Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

2nd Place:

176Title: “The Impact of Cognitive Reserve and Brain Atrophy on Survival in Neurodegenerative Diseases”
Presenter: Carrie Caswell
Authors: Carrie Caswell, MS (1), Sharon X. Xie, PhD (1), Murray Grossman, MD, EdD (1), Corey T. McMillan, PhD (1), Lauren M. Massimo, PhD, CRNP (1,2)
Affiliation(s): (1) University of Pennsylvania, (2) Penn State University

To view the full lectures from the 2017 Sylvan M. Cohen Annual Retreat, click here.

To view more photos from the 2017 Sylvan M. Cohen Annual Retreat, click here.

 

“Through the Eyes of the Caregiver: Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) and the Penn FTD Center” premieres at the Penn FTD Center Caregiver Conference 2017

On Friday, May 12, 2017, the Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) Center hosted its 9th annual Penn FTD Caregivers Conference at the University of Pennsylvania. The day-long conference held at the Smilow Center for Translational Research welcomed 150 attendees and consisted of a series of lectures that covered information around the latest scientific advances in research on FTD and its related disorders, such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Corticobasal degeneration (CBD), as well as practical caregiving issues such as strategies for symptom management, understanding the genetics of FTD and genetic testing options, respite and supportive resources for caregivers, and legal and long-term care planning.

One of the highlights of this year’s conference was the premiere of “Through the Eyes of the Caregiver: Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) and the Penn FTD Center,” a short film sharing the stories of three caregivers whose loved ones are patients at the Penn FTD Center.

“The brunt of this disease falls solely on those closest to the individual with the disease unfortunately and it is very difficult to navigate the healthcare system and obtain the types of resources that give structure to a patient’s day-to-day life and to help a caregiver keep a patient safe and cognitively stimulated,” said David Irwin, MD, assistant professor and Cognitive Neurologist in the Penn FTD Center. The goal of this video is to show caregivers and family members of those with FTD that they are not alone in this life-altering process and that there are many support groups and community and medical resources available to them – including many at the Penn FTD Center – to help them every step of the way.

Watch “Through the Eyes of the Caregiver: Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) and the Penn FTD Center”*:

Two Penn FTD Caregivers Conference sponsors, the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter and the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD), were also in attendance to answer questions and present information on the many advocacy and community resources that they offer for patients with FTD or related disorders and their families and caregivers.

Learn more about the Penn FTD Center at: https://ftd.med.upenn.edu

* Learn more about each individual caregiver by watching their full story! Click the “i” icon bubble in the top right hand corner of the video for a drop down menu with links to each caregivers story! If you are watching on a mobile phone, click the title of the video which will open a drop down menu containing the links to each caregiver’s story as well as a link to the Virtual Tour of Penn’s FTD PPG and Penn FTD Center to learn more about the FTD research and care taking place at Penn.

Eliezer Masliah, MD, Director of NIA’s Division of Neuroscience visits Penn

EliezerMasliah_Flyer5217On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, Eliezer Masliah, MD*, Director of the National Institute on Aging’s (NIA) Division of Neuroscience, paid a visit to the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute on Aging (IOA), Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR), and Penn Neurodegeneration Genomics Center (PNGC).

The reason for Dr. Masliah’s visit was not just to learn about the neurodegenerative disease and aging-related research that is taking place in these centers here at Penn, but also to see how they all collaborate and work toward mutual goals. This gave him the opportunity to see firsthand how NIA and National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding is being used and made worthwhile to support the groundbreaking work of these centers.

Several topics were covered during the visit including the inception and mission of the new Penn Neurodegeneration Genomics Center (PNGC), directed by Gerard D. Schellenberg, PhD, and its five NIH-funded projects, the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC), Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP), Consortium for Alzheimer’s Sequence Analysis (CASA), Center for Genetics and Genomics of Alzheimer’s Disease (CGAD), and the NIA Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease Data Storage Site (NIAGADS). Dr. Schellenberg and other PNGC members, including co-director Li-San Wang, PhD, associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and principal investigator of NIAGADS, presented some of the current work and future plans for PNGC to achieve their overarching goal to “completely resolve the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease.”

After the morning session, Dr. Masliah joined John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Director of the IOA, and Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, Director of CNDR, with several of their lab members as well as several Penn faculty working in neurodegeneration, for an open discussion on the multidisciplinary approach of the IOA and CNDR. A key feature of these centers is their ability to collaborate across many different disciplines within the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. This includes faculty members from several different departments such as Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry, Geriatric Medicine, and Epidemiology to name a few.

Among the many topics discussed, one that was of particular interest to Dr. Masliah was the large number of young investigators and finding out what it was that attracted them to Penn. Many of the lab members were eager to participate and to share their outlook on why Penn was the right place to start their research career. Overall, they agreed that the collaborative, multidisciplinary nature of these centers is what appealed to them most. They also praised Penn for its training and the encouraging environment that it provides for applying for research grants and other funding opportunities. Additionally, Penn is well known for its state of the art databases and data sharing, providing top-notch integration and access to resources for its investigators. Dr. Masliah was especially impressed with CNDR’s Integrative Neurodegenerative Disease Database (INDD) which tracks nearly 17,000 patients and/or research subjects at Penn’s several neurodegenerative disease related centers.

The visit concluded with a lecture by Dr. Masliah, titled “Advancing the National Plan to Address AD through National and International Collaborations.” During his talk, Dr. Masliah discussed the recent $2 billion NIH budget increase which includes $400 million new Alzheimer’s disease funds, new NINDS funding opportunities in partnership with NIA on Lewy body dementia (LDB), and the 17 new Alzheimer’s disease FOA’s.

In terms of what to expect for the future, Dr. Masliah says to stay tuned for changes in pay-lines for FY17, more funding for fellowship and K awards, and more funded FOA’s and 27 new FOA’s.


* In his position as the Director of the NIA’s Division of Neuroscience, Dr. Masliah oversees the world’s largest research program on Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias and cognitive aging. He is an internationally renowned neuroscientist and neuropathologist and has approximately 800 original research articles and 70 book chapters.