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.

 

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“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.

CNDR Researcher receives second place prize for poster on Alpha-Synuclein at 2016 Udall Center Directors Meeting

Last month, Chao Peng, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, won a second place poster prize at the 2016 Udall Center Directors Annual Meeting.

Title: “Distinct Pathological a-Synuclein Strains in Glial Cytoplasmic Inclusions and Lewy Bodies”
Presenter: Chao Peng
Authors: Chao X. Peng, Ronald Gathagan, Dustin J. Covell, Anna Stieber, Coraima Medellin, John L. Robinson, Bin Zhang, Kelvin C. Luk, John Q. Trojanowski, Virginia M.-Y. Lee

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Chao Peng (second from the right) with Walter Koroshetz, MD, Director of NINDS (far left), and his fellow poster winners at the Udall Center Directors Meeting.

Peng’s poster was on the properties of the misfolded alpha-synuclein protein in different neurodegenerative diseases.

Alpha-synuclein is known for playing a key role in the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD), however, this protein is not unique to PD. Alpha-synuclein is also present in the brains of patients with Lewy body dementia (LBD) and Multiple system atrophy (MSA).

During a video interview with the Institute on Aging (see below), Chao Peng explains that alpha-synuclein accumulation is also present in almost 50% of Alzheimer’s disease cases.

While these diseases all show signs of this same misfolded protein, they actually exhibit very different pathological and clinical behaviors than one would experience with Parkinson’s disease—but how?

Chao Peng and his colleagues at CNDR are using multiple different cell and animal models to better understand not only how this occurs and why the same misfolded protein can cause one disease in one patient but something different in others, but what this could mean for potential treatments. Learn more here:

CNDR’s 2016 Marian S. Ware Research Retreat: “Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Drug Discovery”

On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) hosted its annual Marian S. Ware Research Retreat. This year, the theme of the event was “Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Drug Discovery” and was organized by Kurt Brunden, PhD, Director of Drug Discovery and Research Professor at CNDR.

Presenters included David M. Holtzman, MD of Washington University School of Medicine and Laura Volpicelli-Daley, PhD of University of Alabama, Birmingham, as well as industry representatives, Richard Ransohoff, MD of Biogen, Inc., and Mark Forman, MD, PhD of Merck & Co., Inc., in addition to several postdoctoral researchers from Penn.

Throughout the day, guests were invited to browse the nearly 50 neurodegenerative disease research related posters on display for the annual poster session. The event concluded with awards given to the top three posters of the day.

First Place

Title: “alpha-Tubulin Tyrosination and CLIP- 170 Phosphorylation Regulate the Initiation of Dynein-Driven Transport in Neurons
Presenter: Jeffrey Nirschl
Authors: Jeffrey J. Nirschl, Maria M. Magiera, Jacob E. Lazarus, Carsten Janke, Erika L. F. Holzbaur

Second Place:
Title: “Monitoring Conformational Changes in alpha-Synuclein During Aggregation and Small Molecule Treatment”
Presenter: Conor Haney
Authors: Conor M. Haney, John J. Ferrie, Tiberiu Mihaila, Marcello Chang, Jimin Yoon, E. James Petersson

Third Place:
Title: “Distinct Pathological a-Synuclein Strains in Glial Cytoplasmic Inclusions and Lewy Bodies”
Presenter: Chao Peng
Authors: Chao X. Peng, Ronald Gathagan, Dustin J. Covell, Anna Stieber, Coraima Medellin, John L. Robinson, Bin Zhang, Kelvin C. Luk, John Q. Trojanowski, Virginia M.-Y. Lee

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Presentations* (click to download):

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-05-38-pm screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-06-14-pm

*Please note: Not all presentations can be shared online due to unpublished data.

Penn Medicine Celebrates a Milestone with its 5th Annual 5K for the IOA and the Memory Mile Walk

On Sunday, September 25, 2016, Penn Medicine celebrated the 5th anniversary of its annual 5K for the IOA and Memory Mile Walk!

Nearly 500 runners, walkers, and spectators turned up bright and early for the 3.1-mile race through Penn Park and 1-mile walk across the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. The event continues to provide fun for the whole family, even your four-legged friends, and brings together hundreds of people for one universal cause — to support Alzheimer’s and aging-related research at Penn’s Institute on Aging (IOA).

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P.J. Brennan, MD, with his sister, Sheila Connor, at this year’s event.

The 5K for the IOA and the Memory Mile Walk was started in 2012 by the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President and IOA External Advisory Board member, P.J. Brennan, MD. After losing his father to Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Brennan wanted to create a way to get involved in the efforts of finding a cure for this devastating disease. “I wanted to provide support for investigators to test novel ideas that could someday lead to groundbreaking therapies,” he said.

This year, the event raised an impressive $34,245 for the cause and had one of its largest turnouts yet.

As the numbers continue to grow over the years, so do the reasons to attend. In addition to great “SWAG” bags and various raffle prizes, generous awards were given to the top male and female runners in each age category. The overall winners were James Murphy, age 25, with a time of 16:57 and Zandra Walton, age 28, with a  time of 19:19.

Video:

We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to all of the race organizers, sponsors, volunteers, donors, and participants who make this event a success! Thank you!

The full list of race results, courtesy of Run the Day, can be found here.

To view all of the photos from the event, click here.

To view the 6ABC news coverage of the event, click here.

For more information, visit: www.pennmedicine.org/5kioa

Stopping Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias: Advancing our Nation’s Research Agenda — The FY 2018 Bypass Budget

The FY 2018 Bypass Budget, also known as the professional judgment budget, was released last month, estimating that an increase of close to $414 million will be needed to meet the research goals of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the bypass budget “includes a set of targeted milestones and an estimate of the additional investment needed in fiscal year (FY) 2018, above the base for Alzheimer’s and related dementias (ADRD) in the President’s FY 2017 budget to help NIH—and the Nation—move forward to end the devastation of dementia.”

The proposal touches upon several areas of the ADRD plan including Diagnosis, Assessment, and Disease Monitoring, Care and Caregiver Support, Translational Research and Clinical Intervention, and Research Resources. Among the Research Resources, it highlights the NIA Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease Data Storage Site (NIAGADS),* a web-based warehouse for AD genetics that is stationed at the University of Pennsylvania and led by Li-San Wang, PhD, associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

NIAGADS collaborates closely with the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC), led by Principal Investigator Gerard Schellenberg, PhD. Both projects play important roles in the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP), a presidential initiative under the National Alzheimer’s Project Act to identify genomic variants associated with Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (LOAD).

The bypass budget also highlights recent basic, translational, and clinical research as well as studies focused on improving the understanding, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of Alzheimer’s and related dementias, all of which are supported by the NIH.

To review the full proposal, click here.

* New NIAGADS website coming soon

Could this be the breakthrough that Alzheimer’s research has been waiting for?

News of success in a recent drug trial hit the media yesterday, showing some promise in the field of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. According to the paper published this week in Nature, scientists showed that by using high doses of an antibody called aducanumab that they were able to reduce the amount of amyloid plaques — a building block of Alzheimer’s disease — and essentially erase one of the visible signs of AD in the brain.

The study was conducted by scanning the brains of individuals diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease in which participants were randomly selected to receive either a placebo or one of three doses of the antibody once a month over the course of a year. Results showed that those receiving the highest dosage showed the most reduction of amyloid with some also experiencing a slower rate of cognitive decline.

While this is not the first trial of its kind, one researcher on the study is very hopeful that this could be the breakthrough that Alzheimer’s research has been waiting for. “Compared to other studies published in the past, the effect size of this drug is unprecedented,” said Professor Roger Nitsch of Zurig University in an article issued by the Independent.

Kurt Brunden, PhD, director of Drug Discovery and research professor at Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR), agrees that the current findings are encouraging, but believes more is needed to verify the true effectiveness.

BrundenKurt_hsThe Phase 1b clinical data obtained with aducanumab appear to be quite encouraging, with the apparent reduction in senile plaque burden as revealed by PET imaging being particularly noteworthy. However, this was a small trial that wasn’t designed to generate definitive data on improvement in patient cognitive performance. Thus, the results from ongoing larger clinical studies with this immunotherapeutic agent will be critical in demonstrating that a reduction in senile plaques in patients with mild cognitive impairments (MCI) or early AD results in an improvement in cognitive measures,” he explained.

Dr. Brunden’s work at CNDR focuses on overseeing research programs geared towards identifying therapeutic targets and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases. He is leading this year’s CNDR Marian S. Ware Research Retreat, which will cover the topic of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Drug Discovery and will feature a variety of presenters from Penn and beyond.

You can learn more about the aducanumab trial in this recently published article by TIME.