Sudden Decline in Testosterone May Cause Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms in Men

The results of a new study by neurological researchers at Rush University Medical Center show that a sudden decrease of testosterone, the male sex hormone, may cause Parkinson’s like symptoms in male mice.  The findings were recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

One of the major roadblocks for discovering drugs against Parkinson’s disease is the unavailability of a reliable animal model for this disease.

“While scientists use different toxins and a number of complex genetic approaches to model Parkinson’s disease in mice, we have found that the sudden drop in the levels of testosterone following castration is sufficient to cause persistent Parkinson’s like pathology and symptoms in male mice,” said Dr. Kalipada Pahan, lead author of the study and the Floyd A. Davis endowed professor of neurology at Rush. “We found that the supplementation of testosterone in the form of 5-alpha dihydrotestosterone (DHT) pellets reverses Parkinson’s pathology in male mice.”“In men, testosterone levels are intimately coupled to many disease processes,” said Pahan.  Typically, in healthy males, testosterone level is the maximum in the mid-30s, which then drop about one percent each year. However, testosterone levels may dip drastically due to stress or sudden turn of other life events, which may make somebody more vulnerable to Parkinson’s disease.

“Therefore, preservation of testosterone in males may be an important step to become resistant to Parkinson’s disease,” said Pahan.

Read the entire news release.

Neurologists at Rush Working to Discover New Biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease

Jennifer_GoldmanRush University Medical Center has been named one of only five clinical sites in the U.S. to lead a landmark, two-year, multi-site study exclusively focused on discovering new biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease.     

“The discovery of a biomarker is critical to the development of new and improved treatments for Parkinson’s disease, particularly treatments that could slow or stop the progression of the disease, which is something currently not available,” said Dr. Jennifer G. Goldman, neurologist in the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Rush.  Goldman is also an associate professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush.

This study, called BioFIND, aims to identify new biomarker candidates, which are substances or characteristics found in people’s bodies that are associated with the presence of disease or changes over time in a way that can be linked back to the progression of disease.

The BioFIND study will complement the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), another observational clinical study to comprehensively evaluate a cohort of recently diagnosed PD patients and healthy subjects using advanced imaging, biologic sampling and clinical and behavioral assessments to identify biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease progression.

“The data we collect from the BioFIND study along with the data from PPMI will produce the most comprehensive and long-ranging dataset available for biomarker discovery work throughout the Parkinson’s disease community,” said Goldman.

Read the entire news release.

Number of People with Alzheimer’s Disease May Triple by 2050

senior handsThe number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple in the next 40 years, according to a new study by researchers from the Rush Institute of Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center.

The findings of the study are  published in the February 6, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

This increase is due to an aging baby boom generation.  It will place a huge burden on society, disabling more people who develop the disease, challenging their caregivers, and straining medical and social safety nets,” said co-author, Jennifer Weuve, MPH, ScD, assistant professor of medicine, Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

For the study, researchers analyzed information from 10,802 African-American and Caucasian people living in Chicago, ages 65 and older between 1993 and 2011. Participants were interviewed and assessed for dementia every three years. Age, race and level of education were factored into the research.

The data was combined with U.S. death rates, education and current and future population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The study found that the total number of people with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2050 is projected to be 13.8 million, up from 4.7 million in 2010. About 7 million of those with the disease would be age 85 or older in 2050.

“Our projections use sophisticated methods and the most up-to-date data, but they echo projections made years and decades ago.  All of these projections anticipate a future with a dramatic increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s and should compel us to prepare for it,” said Weuve.

Read the entire news release.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgeries Increasing

Minimally invasive spine surgery at Rush using advanced imaging  allows patients to recover more quickly.

Minimally invasive spine surgery at Rush allows patients to recover more quickly.

With demand for unresolved back pain relief growing as the U.S. population ages, Rush University Medical Center is doing more minimally invasive spine surgery procedures that allow patients to return to normal, day-to-day activities faster than if they undergo conventional surgery.

Demand for this type of surgery is rising. In 2012, 534 patients underwent minimally invasive lumbar spine surgery through Rush’s Spine and Back Center, nearly a 19 percent increase over the previous year.

Unlike traditional open spinal surgery, minimally invasive lumbar spinal surgery is performed by neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons using small incisions that don’t produce as much damage to healthy tissue. Less blood is lost, patients have faster recovery times and with fewer complications. The procedures can range from repairing herniated (bulging) disks to reconstructing bones in the spine that have become misaligned due to spinal deformity.

Read the entire news release.

Reading, Writing and Playing Games May Help Aging Brains Stay Healthy

Mental activities like reading and writing can preserve structural integrity in the brains of older people, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

While previous research has shown an association between late-life cognitive activity and better mental acuity, the new study from Konstantinos Arfanakis, PhD, and colleagues from Rush University Medical Center and Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago studied what effect late-life cognitive activity might have on the brain’s white matter, which is composed of nerve fibers, or axons, that transmit information throughout the brain.

“Reading the newspaper, writing letters, visiting a library, attending a play or playing games, such as chess or checkers, are all simple activities that can contribute to a healthier brain,” Arfanakis said.

The researchers used a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to generate data on diffusion anisotropy, a measure of how water molecules move through the brain. In white matter, diffusion anisotropy exploits the fact that water moves more easily in a direction parallel to the brain’s axons, and less easily perpendicular to the axons, because it is impeded by structures such as axonal membranes and myelin. “This difference in the diffusion rates along different directions increases diffusion anisotropy values,” Arfanakis said. “Diffusion anisotropy is higher when more diffusion is happening in one direction compared to others.”

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