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Colleen Davis, a freelance writer for the Penn Memory Center's InSight newsletter, is script writer for a new multi-format television and Internet series titled Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. The series outlines the history of the city of Philadelphia in a documentary format, and segments are now being broadcast live on ABC 6 WPVI. Tune into Philadelphia ABC 6 to see episode four, "The Fight," which covers the history of Philadelphia from 1965 to 1978, on June 20 at 7:30 pm EST. For more information about the series, visit the website at www.historyofphilly.com.
On June 7, 2013, 26 members of the Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Disease Planning Committee, along with Secretary of Aging Brian Duke, met for the first time in Harrisburg to begin the development of a Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Disease State Plan. The committee is comprised of representatives from state agencies, including John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and individuals personally affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Ronald Petersen, professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic and Director of the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) was selected to be the guest speaker at the meeting. Dr. Petersen discussed current treatment and research that is occurring at the Mayo Clinic.
The creation of the Alzheimer’s Disease Planning Committee was the result of the executive order signed by Governor Tom Corbett on February 7, 2013 to establish the committee and create a strategy to address the rising number of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease in Pennsylvania. Future meetings are currently scheduled around the state to allow the public to voice their opinions regarding a state plan to address Alzheimer’s disease. The responsibilities of committee members include examining trends and needs in the Alzheimer’s population, researching existing resources available, and proposing a strategy to respond to the anticipated increase in incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in Pennsylvania as the population ages. The deadline for committee members to deliver recommendations to the governor is February 7, 2014.
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On June 1, 2013, Jason Karlawish, MD, was featured on Dr. Calvin Johnson’s radio show “Your Health Matters” on 900AM WURD. The segment covered the ten warning signs and stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The segment was broadcasted and live streamed on www.900amwurd.com. WURD serves as the heartbeat of the African-American urban market, providing information and solutions that educate, uplift and inspire the heart and soul of Philadelphia.
Funding has been awarded for two ADCC study pilots, and they will be funded for fiscal year 2014. The first, a study by Zahra Fakhraai, is titled "The Effect of Surface Interactions on the Early Stages of Aβ Fibril Growth." In patients with Alzheimer's disease, amyloid plaques in the brain are thought to be the the cause of the disease. This study examine the evolution and structure of the amyloid beta peptide, the main component of amyloid plaques.
The second funded study is led by Rachel Gross, MD, and is titled "Radionuclide Imaging of Amyloid Plaques and Basal Ganglionic Dopamine in the Parkinson Brain." This study will use PET imaging to investigate the relationship between amyloid plaques and nigro-striatal dopamine as markers for Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia, respectively. These abnormal synuclein in Lewy body dementia and amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease are major contrbiutors to cognitive impairment in patients.
In cities across the country, older Americans are donating their time and expertise in record numbers, new data from the Corporation for National and Community Service shows.
According to data released during Senior Corps Week (May 6-10), senior volunteering hit a ten-year high in 2011, as more than twenty million older Americans donated nearly three billion hours of services valued at $67 billion. CNCS also found that one in three volunteers is age 55 or older; that the percentage of seniors volunteering increased from 25.1 percent in 2002 to 31.2 percent in 2011; and that 72.4 percent of older adults — higher than the national average — provided informal favors such as helping out a neighbor.
Previous research has found that volunteering can have a positive effect on an older person's mental and physical health, with senior volunteers tending to report increased strength and energy levels, lower rates of depression, and fewer physical limitations.
"Volunteering helps Americans by keeping them active, healthy, and engaged," said Dr. Erwin Tan, CNCS' director of senior corps. "As our nation's older population rapidly grows, we have a tremendous opportunity to unleash the power of older volunteers on our most pressing problems."
Read the story at Philanthropy News Digest
On Saturday, April 20, 2013, Steven Arnold, MD, Director of the Penn Memory Center, presented a lecture on Alzheimer's disease and cognitive impairment at LGBT Elder Initiative (LGBTEI)'s community forum, "The Aging Mind 101." Over 75 guests and aging service providers attended the workshop, which was held at St. Luke and the Epiphany. The program covered the medical, scientific, psychosocial and caregiving issues associated with memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. “The Aging Mind 101” was designed to spur the discussion within the LGBT communities about the warning signs of memory loss and cognitive impairments; disseminate information about resources; and encourage planning for future care and support.
For more information on LGBTEI and their Conversations series, visit their website.
Does a human being with Alzheimer's disease stop being a person? What can people with advanced dementia still do? How can we honor the dignity of individuals coping with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias?
Dr. Jason Karlawish presented the lecture "Finding Humanity Through Suffering" at the "Finding Humanity in Advanced Dementia" symposium that took place on April 27, 2013 at Washington University in St. Louis. Experts in the fields of patient care, psychology, philosophy, medicine and neuroscience along with a family caregiver met to discuss the effect of severe cognitive loss on people with dementia and those who care for them.
Can electrical currents in the brain improve memory loss? WHYY Radio reports that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania will test an approach called "deep brain stimulation" in Alzheimer's patients. It's been successful in reducing Parkinson's symptoms, as well as treating depression. David Wolk, MD, assistant professor of Neurology, Gordon Baltuch, MD, PhD, professor of Neurosurgery, and other Penn researchers will now study whether it can help patients with mild Alzheimer's. "The goal of this study is to stimulate one part of that network," explained Wolk. "To turn on one part of that network to sort of reboot, if you will, the entire network to see if that enhances memory function and improves overall functioning in people with Alzheimer's disease." Wolk says the Penn Memory Center is one of five sites in the U.S. participating in the study. The hope is to reduce symptoms, and possibly reverse some of the disease's effects on the brain.
To learn more about the deep brain stimulation study at the Penn Memory Center, called ADvance, visit our research page at http://pennadc.org/research/penn-memory-center-research.
While they are careful not to call it a cure, researchers at Ohio State University believe they may be able to reverse some of the ravages left by Alzheimer’s disease by implanting tiny electrodes in a patient’s brain and then hooking those wires up to a sort of pacemaker.
Scientists believe that deep-brain stimulation could improve symptoms by jump starting networks gunked up by the sticky proteins generated in Alzheimer’s disease.
The disease damages many of the brain’s networks, explained Dr. David Wolk, an assistant professor of neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and assistant director of the Penn Memory Center in Philadelphia. Wolk’s group is just starting to screen patients for a trial similar to the one at Ohio State, although the Penn researchers plan to stimulate a different area of the brain.
“The most prominent circuit involved in the disease is the one for memory,” Wolk said. “It’s thought that if we can stimulate that network we can make it perform more effectively.”
Dr. Wolk is leading this deep brain stimulation study, called ADvance, at the Penn Memory Center. For more information and to download a one-page study sheet, view the study posting here: http://pennadc.org/research/penn-memory-center-research.
On Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24 Dr. Jason Karlawish, Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center, will be featured in a nationally broadcasted radio segment by 2BoomerBabes. The interview segment will focus on topics related to the ethical challenges of Alzheimer's disease. To tune in from home the broadcast will stream live online starting at 11:00am EST on www.delmarvapublicradio.net. Please log on to the site a few minutes early as it may take a minute to log on. Alternately, check AARP Internet Radio at www.aarp.org/radio to hear the interview streaming on an ongoing basis or visit the 2BoomerBabes site to hear the interview after its original air dates at www.2boomerbabes.com.
Deborah Fries, freelance writer for the Penn Memory Center InSight newsletter, has been awarded with the 2013 Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry. A resident of Elkins Park, PA, Deborah was selected by judge and noted poet Dorothea Lasky. Philadelphia Stories' Poetry Editor Courtney Bambrick calls the winning poem "an evocative and transformative piece that exemplifies a commitment to storytelling through image and momentum." Deborah wins a cash prize of $1,000 and an invitation to the Party Like a Poet celebration on April 19 where she will be awarded with the prize. Out of the hundreds of poems Philadelphia Stories received, the poetry board and final judge selected Deborah Fries’ “Marie in America” for first place.
"This prize reflects the vibrancy of the Philadelphia literary community, and the serious support it provides to poets," says winner Deborah Fries. "I am very honored to be a recipient."
On April 20 Penn Memory Center Director Dr. Steven Arnold and Felicia Greenfield, LCSW, will present at "The Aging Mind 101," a workshop hosted by the LGBT Elder Initiative. Memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive issues present unique challenges to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities as they age, and the LGBT Elder Initiative is hosting the event to address these issues. The event is part of the LGBTEI CONVERSATIONS series of informational programs, and it will address healthy aging and techniques for maintaining mental abilities, warning signs of disease states, the psychosocial implications for the patient, and issues facing their caregivers.
For more information about the LGBT Elder Initiative visit their website at www.lgbtei.org.
On February 12, President Barack Obama mentioned Alzheimer’s in his State of the Union Address, the first time that’s happened in thirteen years. President Obama said, "Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race." Just as with the National Alzheimer's Plan and the previous financial commitments from the Obama administration, the President’s statement about the importance of Alzheimer’s research in his State of the Union Address is based on recognition of the human and financial impact of Alzheimer's.
The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics. The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness. Scientists with the highest hopes for the project also see it as a way to develop the technology essential to understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as to find new therapies for a variety of mental illnesses. Moreover, the project holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence.
On February 7, 2013 Gov. Tom Corbett signed an Executive Order establishing the Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Disease State Planning Committee at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. One in 12 Pennsylvania families affected by Alzheimer’s disease Philadelphia, and the committee will work to create a state plan to address the growing Alzheimer’s disease crisis in Pennsylvania.
“Since Pennsylvania is the fourth ‘oldest’ state in the nation, it is critical that we unite to find a cure and help those who are living with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those who care for them,” Corbett said. “This committee will bring together experts to address the challenging issues related to this disease.”
Secretary of Aging Brian Duke will serve as the chairperson of the committee that will examine the needs and research the trends of Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s population. The committee will include representatives from various state agencies as well as those personally impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. They will have one year to develop a planned approach for Pennsylvania relating to Alzheimer’s disease and other related brain disorders.
The lack of definitive biological markers for the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease has made it impossible to enroll patients in drug-research trials, U.S. regulators said, slowing development of new treatments.
The methods for trials were established in 1984 and cover patients with full-blown dementia who suffer both cognitive and functional limitations, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement today. The agency is proposing to relax guidelines for early-stage Alzheimer’s drug trials by letting researchers show that a medication slows the cognitive decline, rather than improvement in both cognitive and functional deterioration.
Read the full article on Bloomberg
Robert Green, MD, MPH presented the grand rounds lecture titled Ethical Dilemmas in Genetics Research: When should subjects learn their results? on Tuesday, January 29 to a packed crowd in the Surgery Theater at the Hospital University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Green’s lecture addressed the question of how to proceed when discovering incidental findings in genetic research, such as discovering a subject’s likelihood to be a carrier for certain diseases, and the ethical implications that come with revealing that information to the subject or patient.
Dr. Green is a physician and scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the division of genetics and department of medicine. Dr. Green's research has led to key contributions in understanding genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, including the development of risk estimates based on family history and genetic markers.
It has the makings of a science fiction movie: Zap someone's brain with mild jolts of electricity to try to stave off the creeping memory loss of Alzheimer's disease. And it's not easy. Holes are drilled into the patient's skull so tiny wires can be implanted into just the right spot.
A dramatic shift is beginning in the disappointing struggle to find something to slow the damage of this epidemic: The first U.S. experiments with "brain pacemakers" for Alzheimer's are getting under way. Scientists are looking beyond drugs to implants in the hunt for much-needed new treatments. The research is in its infancy. Only a few dozen people with early-stage Alzheimer's will be implanted in a handful of hospitals. No one knows if it might work, and if it does, how long the effects might last.
Kathy Sanford was among the first to sign up. The Ohio woman's early-stage Alzheimer's was gradually getting worse. She still lived independently, posting reminders to herself, but no longer could work. The usual medicines weren't helping. Then doctors at Ohio State University explained the hope - that constant electrical stimulation of brain circuits involved in memory and thinking might keep those neural networks active for longer, essentially bypassing some of dementia's damage.
Sanford decided it was worth a shot. "The reason I'm doing it is, it's really hard to not be able, sometimes, to remember," Sanford, 57, said from her Lancaster, Ohio, home.
Read the full article on AP News
By James Flory and Jason Karlawish
“If there’s a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?”
With these words, President Barack Obama not only demonstrated his hip sci-fi credentials—Morpheus’s choice to Neo was either to take the blue pill and remain happy but ignorant of the truth, or the red pill, which would reveal to him a sometimes-painful reality and also launch the lucrative “Matrix” trilogy of movies—but also his desire to take a 21st-century, data-driven approach to clinical decision making and health care policy.
Among competing treatments for the same disease, which one is best? Which one is worth the money? These questions are the core of comparative effectiveness research. Half of insured patients in the United States are on chronic medications for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Patients, physicians, and policymakers need reliable data to know what to take, what to recommend, and what is worth paying for. Typically, however, they don’t have these data.
The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, has implemented a number of initiatives to address this problem. One of the largest is the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI. A core mission of PCORI is to conduct comparative effectiveness research that gives patients and their health care providers the best evidence to help make more informed decisions. As promising and common sense as this mission is—because why not pay half price?—solid gold evidence to answer a patient’s question “Should I take the red pill or blue pill?” is hard to obtain.
Read the full article on Science Progress