PHILADELPHIA - The entire January issue of NeuroSignals is devoted to describing neurodegenerative disease research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Health System (See for a Table of Contents and Abstracts).

“Neurodegenerative diseases are a public health problem and we are doing the basic and translational science to improve how we care for people with these diseases,” says John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Director of the PENN Institute on Aging, who wrote the introductory paper, entitled, “PENN Neurodegenerative Disease Research – In The Spirit of Benjamin Franklin” for the issue.

The United States and nations across the globe are experiencing a seismic demographic shift due to the rapidly growing segment of the population 65 and older. These demographic changes reflect astonishing increases in life expectancy in the last millennium. For example, life expectancy has increased by about 27 years from 1900 to 1990, while a similar increase has occurred over the prior 5 millennia extending from the Bronze Age to 1900.


Neuro-Signals Cover

January, 2008

“The good news about this longevity revolution is that Americans are not only living longer, but their disabilities continue to decline,” says Trojanowski. “However, if action is not taken immediately to plan for this demographic ‘sea change’, aging-related disorders like Alzheimer’s disease will have ominous consequences. Significantly, the costs to Medicare for treating Alzheimer’s and related dementias were $62 billion in 2000 but will increase to $1 trillion by 2050 if no effective treatments are developed.

“Although demography is the history of the future as written today, it is still possible to change the future now. For example, the burden of Alzheimer’s and its costs could be reduced by half in the coming years if interventions can be developed that delay the onset of the disease by five years. This realization motivated Penn scientists to pursue research to enhance healthy brain aging and reduce the burden of Alzheimer’s and other aging-related neurodegenerative diseases globally as well as nationally in our lifetime.”

This special issue of NeuroSignals provides an overview of these research programs at Penn:

John Q. Trojanowski
“PENN Neurodegenerative Disease Research – In The Spirit of Ben Franklin”


Christopher M. Clark, Christos Davatzikos, Ari Bortakur, Andrew Newberg, Susan Leight, Virginia M.-Y. Lee and John Q. Trojanowski
"Biomarkers for the Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology"
Applications of biomarkers in the real world--Use of biomarkers to make diagnoses for clinical trials.


Leslie Shaw
“Penn Biomarker Core of the Alzheimer Disease Neuroimaging Initiative”
Validation of chemical biomarkers and blood tests for Alzheimer’s


Rachel Goldmann Gross, Andrew Siderowf and Howard Hurtig
"Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies: A Spectrum of Disease"
Penn Udall Center is the only such center to look at cognitive impairment and Parkinson’s disease


Sarah M. Kranick and John E. Duda
“Olfactory Dysfunction in Parkinson’s Disease”
Early detection of Parkinson’s disease using a smell test


Benoit I. Giasson and Vivianna M. van Deerlin
“Mutations in LRRK2 as a Cause of Parkinson's DiseaseGenetics of Parkinson’s disease; LRRK2 is one of the most frequent mutations in this disease


Linda Kwong, Kunihiro Uryu, John Q. Trojanowski and Virginia M.-Y. Lee
“TDP-43 Proteinopathies: Neurodegenerative Protein Misfolding Diseases Without Amyloidosis”
Update on TDP-43 dementias in ALS and FTD


Aaron Gitler
“Beer and Bread to Brains and Beyond: Can Yeast Cells Teach us About Neurodegenerative Diseases?"
Using yeast models to study neuron diseases


James Shorter
“Hsp104, A Potential Weapon to Combat Diverse Neurodegenerative Disorders”
Heat shock proteins’ role in neuron diseases


Brett A. McCray and J. Paul Taylor
“The Role of Autophagy in Age-Related Neurodegeneration”
New pathways towards neurodegeneration


Lauren Elman, Leo McCluskey and Murray Grossman,
" Motor Neuron Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia: A Tale of Two Disorders Linked To TDP-43"
TDP-43 protein’s role in Lou Gehrig’s Disease


Jason Karlawish
“Measuring Decision Making Capacity in Cognitively Impaired Individuals”
Understanding how patients with neuron diseases can make informed decisions

Please contact Karen Kreeger if you would like more information any of these topics or would like to interview an investigator.


PENN Medicine is a $3.5 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals — its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.



Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report — Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided $500 million to benefit our community.