Tag Archives: Parkinson’s Disease

Novel Zebrafish Research Contributes to More Effective Diagnosis, Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders

Researchers at Penn State Neuroscience Institute not only conduct pre-human scientific studies of various medical conditions, but also see patients daily, giving these physicians a perspective not found in most laboratories. Mark Stahl, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and neural and behavioral sciences, details one such study involving “molecular tweezers” to break up the aggregation of misfolded proteins known as α -synuclein.1 These aggregated proteins are associated with the development of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, for which there are currently symptomatic therapies but no treatments that can alter the disease course.1

Zebrafish research

LEFT: Zebrafish overexpressing neuronal human alpha-synuclein (red) have poor morphology, neuronal death and poor survival. RIGHT: “Molecular tweezers” like CLR-01 can rescue this phenotype.

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The Parkinson’s/Statin Paradox: New Analysis Raises Questions About Previous Findings

In 2013, a paper published in Neurology advocated a clinical opinion that statin use was protective against Parkinson’s disease (PD).¹ However, Xuemei Huang, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair for research, Penn State Hershey Neurology, led a team in a prospective analysis of the connection between statins and PD in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, which strongly suggests the opposite finding.²

While the analysis was based on just 106 cases of the more than 15,000 patients enrolled in ARIC, Huang says, “The length of the study, measurement of cholesterol, and recording of patients’ statin history all combine to make top-notch data collection.” One especially interesting feature of the ARIC patient cohort is that the study began before statins were widely used, but continued for twenty years, marking a unique opportunity to analyze pre- and post-statin disease correlates. In addition, not only did Huang’s study find that statins may not confer a protective effect against the development of PD, but they may actually increase the risk of developing PD with long-term use.²

Changes in statin use

The changes of statin usage (A) and plasma total cholesterol levels in Atherosclerosis Risk in Community Study (ARIC) stratified by statin usage (B) and Parkinson’s disease (C) status.2

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Movement Disorders Center Researches Early Diagnosis Technique and Measures Deep Brain Stimulation Efficacy in Parkinson’s

Penn State Hershey Movement Disorders Center is home to a research study focused on the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and a program for measuring the efficacy of deep brain stimulation (DBS) treatment in advanced cases of the disease.

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery James McInerney, M.D., states, because PD symptoms can be mistaken for other disorders, an accurate PD diagnosis often does not occur until up to 80 percent of dopamine neurons have died. His colleague, Vice Chair for Research and Professor of Neurosurgery Xuemei Huang, M.D., Ph.D., leads a team that studies the dynamics of arm swing coordination during walking in both PD patients and controls, to identify any marked differences.1 Continue reading

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Penn State Hershey Treats 1,000th Gamma Knife Patient

Leksell Gamma Knife® Perfexion™Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center recently completed its 1,000th Gamma Knife radiosurgery procedure. Gamma Knife radiosurgery uses a single dose of radiation instead of a surgeon’s scalpel to treat a wide range of diseases, including both benign and malignant tumors, Parkinson’s disease, vascular malformations and lesions that cause epilepsy.

Penn State Hershey’s 1,000th Gamma Knife patient was Robert Reynolds from Mifflintown, Juniata County. Reynolds was treated for lung cancer that had spread to his brain. Since undergoing the procedure, Reynolds has returned to work as a Juniata County commissioner.

“We were able to treat five lesions in Mr. Reynolds’ brain,” said Dr. Jonas Sheehan, director of neuro-oncology at Penn State Hershey. “His case is a great example of how our experienced neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists are able to provide advanced care that allows patients with complex conditions to enjoy a high quality of life.” Continue reading

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