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.

 

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Recognizing MSA: Multiple System Atrophy

What is Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), MSA is a “progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a combination of symptoms that affect both the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary action such as blood pressure or digestion) and movement. The symptoms reflect the progressive loss of function and death of different types of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.”

Symptoms may include:

  • Fainting spells
  • Problems with heart rate
  • Bladder control
  • Tremors
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Speech problems
  • Gait impairment
  • Rigidity

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Like many other neurodegenerative diseases, some symptoms of MSA can be treated with medications, but there is currently no cure or means of halting progression.

MSA vs. Parkinson’s Disease

While many symptoms can mimic those of Parkinson’s disease (PD), often making it difficult to distinguish a diagnosis in the early stages, MSA typically progresses much more rapidly than PD. Within a few years of initial symptoms, majority of MSA patients will require a cane or walker to aid in getting around.

Moving Towards a Cure

Researchers at Penn, and outside of Penn, continue to work vigorously for answers that will help benefit and improve the lives of those suffering from MSA.

“I would say that, although research in any rare disease is challenging, there have been advances in MSA, from the generation of animal models that are essential to understand the disease and develop new therapies, to several clinical trials that have already been completed in patients with this disorder,” explained Pedro Gonzales-Alegre, MD, PhD, associate professor of Neurology, Division of Movement Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania. “There are also efforts to develop better imaging biomarkers that will help us better diagnose MSA and monitor disease progression of the disease in clinical trials.”

In order to continue in this upward direction, raising awareness, knowledge, and advocacy becomes increasingly important. One of the key players in MSA awareness is CurePSP, a close partner of Penn Medicine. CurePSP is a nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to increase the public’s knowledge of prime of life diseases such as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), Corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and MSA. They define a prime of life disease as a condition that often strikes during a person’s most productive and rewarding years.

The video below, courtesy of CurePSP, shares the touching story of James Wark, MD, a child neurologist, who is now living with Multiple System Atrophy, and the struggles that he and his family have been faced with since his diagnosis.

 

Multiple System Atrophy Awareness Month

March is Multiple System Atrophy Awareness Month. Show your support on Facebook and Twitter with the banner and message below:

March is #MSAAwarenessMonth! Help spread the word and learn more about #MSA here: http://bit.ly/1LqYaTM

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CNDR Retreat 2015: “Focusing on Parkinson’s Disease Alpha-Synuclein at the University of Pennsylvania”

Last Wednesday, October 7, 2015, Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) hosted their 15th Annual Marian S. Ware Research Retreat. This year, the theme was “Focusing on Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Alpha-synuclein at the University of Pennsylvania,” which included lectures from thirteen different University of Pennsylvania researchers (listed below) from the Perelman School of Medicine, School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who are working on this protein and its role in PD.

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With over 150 guests and 26 posters, the day-long event was yet another success. The posters covered topics not only related to alpha-synuclein and PD, but a variety of other ongoing clinical and basic research studies on PD and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As usual, prizes were awarded to the top three posters.

1st Place Poster Winner

cndrretreat15_1stplaceTitle: Dopamine induces toxic oligomers of a-synuclein leading to neurodegeneration and motor impairment in vivo

Authors: Danielle Mor1,2 (pictured center, with CNDR Director, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD [left] and Director of CNDR Drug Discovery, Kurt Brunden, PhD[right]); Elpida Tsika3; Joseph R. Mazzulli4; Jennifer Grossman5; John H. Wolfe2,6,7; Harry Ischiropoulos1,2,7

Affiliations: 1 Department of Neuroscience, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; 2 Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute; 3 Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland; 4 Department of Neurology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; 5 Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University, New York, NY; 6 Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine; 7 Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

2nd Place Poster Winner

cndrretreat15_2ndplaceTitle: The Super Elongation Complex (SEC) modulates TDP-43 and G4C2 hexanucleotide repeat toxicity in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease models

Authors: Chia-Yu Chung (pictured), Nancy Bonini

Affiliation: Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania

 

 


3rd Place Poster Winner

cndrretreat15_3rdplaceTitle: Can drug-induced Parkinsonism reveal pre-motor Parkinson disease?

Authors: James F. Morley (pictured), Gang Cheng, Jacob G. Dubroff, Jayne R. Wilkinson, John E. Duda

Affiliations: PADRECC and Nuclear Medicine, PVAMC.  Departments of Neurology and Radiology PSOM

 

 

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For more information on Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, visit: www.med.upenn.edu/cndr

A Virtual Tour of the Penn Udall Center for Parkinson’s Research

The goals of the Morris K. Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Center of Excellence, which was launched at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007, are to shed light on the mechanisms of disease progression and alpha-synuclein transmission through collaborations between basic and translational research.

Throughout this virtual tour, you will visit the various researchers and clinicians who have dedicated their lives to fulfilling these goals. As you will see, their mission is to conduct multidisciplinary clinical, translational, and basic research that improves the understanding of and develops better treatments for patients with Parkinson’s disease. These ideas are the driving force behind each of the Cores and Projects listed below that will be highlighted in this tour:

Udall Cores:
Core A: Administrative Core
Core B: Clinical Core
Core D: Neuropathology, Biomarker, and Genetics Core
Core C: Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Data Management Core

Udall Projects:
Project I: A Multimodal Biomarker Approach to Evaluating and Predicting Cognitive Decline in Lewy Body Diseases
Project II: Mechanisms of PD Executive Dysfunction in Language
Project III: Mechanisms of Transmission of Pathological Alpha-synuclein in Neurons
Project IV: Immunotherapy Targeting PD Transmission in Animal Models

For more information on the Udall Center on Parkinson’s Research, visit: http://www.med.upenn.edu/udall