Research and Clinical Overview
Finding answers is a joint process. Penn’s excellence in aging and aging-related disease research, particularly in neurodegenerative diseases, arises from the work and talents of a cadre of research and clinician scientists and staff, as well as the dedication and participation of study and trial participants and their caregivers and families.
The newly funded Penn Udall Center for Parkinson’s Research builds on the continuing momentum of a team of PENN clinical and basic scientists to accomplish the overarching goals of this new multidisciplinary Parkinson’s disease (PD) research program. The Penn Udall Center brings together movement disorder physicians and experts in cognition and neuropsychiatry from across the Penn School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Our Focus at Penn
Specifically, our goal is to elucidate or clarify the molecular mechanisms that underlie the cognitive and movement aspects of Parkinson’s disease and explore efforts to enhance the care and treatment of patients and training of physicians.
PD with dementia (PDD), which may be pathologically and clinically indistinguishable from dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), frequently co-occurs with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and the Lewy body (LB) variant of AD (LBVAD) is the most common subtype of AD. However, the reasons for the convergence of LBs and AD pathologies remain enigmatic. Here, we hypothesize that accumulations of oligomeric/fibrillar species of alpha-synuclein lead to neurodegeneration and neurospychiatric deficits in addition to parkinsonism, which may be compounded by tau and Aβ pathologies seeded by alpha-synuclein oligomers/fibrills.
Penn Udall Center Structure
To accomplish the goals of the PENN Udall Center, Projects 1 and 2 are patient-oriented studies designed to develop: 1) a disease-specific rating scale to assess the impact of cognitive impairment on daily function in PDD; and 2) a functional imaging study to better define the anatomic substrate of cognitive impairment in PD and PDD.
Projects 3 and 4 bridge patient oriented studies by pursuing research on novel animal models of PD/PDD to clarify how the misfolding, fibrillization and aggregation of alpha-synuclein, tau and A-beta contribute to the neuron dysfunction and degeneration that result in cognitive impairments in PDD.
These 4 highly integrated and synergistic projects are supported by an Administrative Core (A), a Clinical and Education Core (B), a Neuropathology and Genetics Core (C) and a Data Management and Biostatistics Core (D).
The Penn Udall Center investigators will accomplish the goals outlined above by working in a seamlessly interdisciplinary manner as well as by collaborating with other Udall Centers. Further, data, reagents, and resources generated by the Penn Udall Center will be shared with researchers at other Udall Centers. Thus, the Penn Udall Center team will contribute to improving the diagnosis and management of patients with PD, PDD, DLB and related disorders.