CCDA Research

 

Neurodegeneration Research

Under the CCDA and the Neurodegenerative Disease Research Laboratory, scientists are investigating numerous neurodegenerative disease processes afflicting millions of individuals. These include major dementing illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body disease, vascular disease and other dementias. A focus of the research efforts has been on identifying underlying pathology that may be induced by environmental factors that promote neuroinflammation such as infection. Given the interplay between one’s intrinsic genetic profile and the extrinsic environment, the hope is to identify triggering factors in the pathogenesis of these illnesses. In this way, inroads can be made into improved treatments and eventual prevention.

The Neurodegenerative Disease Research Laboratory is under the direction of Brian J. Balin, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Chair of the Department of Bio-Medical Sciences and Director of Basic Science Research, CCDA.

To learn more about the research efforts or to make a contribution to the research, please contact Dr. Balin at brianba@pcom.edu or the CCDA at ccda@pcom.edu.

Within the CCDA, there are a number of unique projects focused on neurodegenerative disease research:

Drs. Brian Balin, Denah Appelt, C. Scott Little, and colleagues are conducting exciting novel research that focuses on infection as a causative factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). This research centers on studies of the respiratory organism Chlamydia pneumoniae that these researchers have found to be present in the brains of Alzheimer diseased individuals. Experiments are designed to unveil how infection with this organism leads to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Recent publications have focused on animal models demonstrating how Chlamydia pneumoniae infection triggers the accumulation of amyloid, the key component that is indicative of the pathogenesis of AD in the brain. Current studies are focusing on antibiotic treatment of animals following infection and on how infection may become chronic or persistent in the brain. These projects have been funded by the Alzheimer's Association and by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Numerous peer reviewed publications and review articles on Chlamydia pneumoniae involvement in AD have been authored by these investigators and their collaborators at Wayne State University School of Medicine lead by Dr. Alan Hudson. This research may result in therapeutic approaches using combinations of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs in preventing and combating AD.

Drs. Michael Kuchera and colleagues are conducting studies to see if different forms of biomechanical treatment might provide health benefits when added to the care of individuals with Parkinson’s disease.  In particular they received a research grant from the Philadelphia Health Care Trust to investigate how and how much traditional Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) or an innovative new treatment called “periodic acceleration therapy” (PAT) might upregulate endothelial nitric oxide synthetase (eNOS) to release nitric oxide.  The basic science findings will be compared to clinical outcomes measuring improvement in quality-of-life, balance and gait in this second most common neurodegenerative disease.  An earlier osteopathic study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) documented a role for OMT in improving gait and this study may offer even a better understanding of the mechanism behind the long-range benefits obtained.  The study is currently open for individuals with Parkinson’s disease who meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Beginning in the winter of 2008, Drs. Michael Kuchera and colleagues will be initiating a translational research study for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).  Individuals who are being seen in the Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) and who are also receiving osteopathic manipulative treatment will also be given access to a series of treatments using Therapeutic Magnetic Resonance (TMR), Periodic Acceleration Therapy (PAT), or Maximal Effort Exercise (MEE) on the same IsoPUMP® equipment used in the recent multi-center study of individuals with multiple sclerosis.

Cardiovascular Research

There are a number of studies within the CCDA research family that are associated with health or treatment to affect the heart or the blood vessels.

Dr. Lindon Young is the Principal Investigator of a NIH funded project studying novel aspects of reperfusion injury following myocardial ischemia. Specifically, Dr. Young is exploring the role of the neutrophil that infiltrates into the myocardium and mediates cell injury. This injury appears to be dependent on protein kinase C (PKC) as an important mediator of neutrophil infiltration and activation, as well as in nitric oxide release from the basal vascular endothelium. This work in the CCDA is being extended to both cardiovascular injury after myocardial ischemia/infarction and to analysis of infection mediation in the process of stroke in collaboration with the AD group. The research offers exciting approaches in the use of novel peptide inhibitors and activators of PKC isoforms to alleviate inflammatory induced ischemic injury.

Drs. Michael Kuchera, Farzaneh Daghigh, Lindon Young, Peggy Stewart, and collaborators have been studying the effect of biomechanical treatments to stimulate the release of helpful amounts of nitric oxide from the lining of the blood vessels.  Their findings have indicated that one type of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) called the Dalrymple Pedal Lymphatic Pump releases as much nitric oxide as moderately active exercise.  This was also the case with the use of PAT.  Their preliminary work was funded in part by the American Osteopathic Association and with resources made available with funding from the Philadelphia Health Care Trust.

Bone and Cartilage Research

Dr. Marina D'Angelo investigates the mechanisms that regulate the formation and remodeling of cartilage and bone. Her group, in collaboration with both academic and pharmaceutical groups, has identified a novel complex of molecules that must be metabolized in order to release stimulators of growth plate development. Alterations in assembly and metabolism of the molecular complex may be involved in the pathogenesis of improper bone development and growth. This work is funded, in part, by the NIH.

Other exciting basic science research is being performed within the CCDA and these impact clinical areas including: Chronic Inflammatory Responses, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Diabetes, Hormonal Dysfunction, Multiple Sclerosis, Osteoarthritis, Osteopenia/Osteoporosis, Parkinson's Disease, Quality-of-Life Issues, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Transplantation and Wound Repair.

Food Allergy Research Initiative

Under the auspices of the CCDA, a new research program has begun. This program is entitled the “Food Allergy Research Initiative” and is under the direction of Christopher Scott Little, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology, Microbiology, Immunology, and Forensic Medicine. The initiative addresses an ever-growing need to develop strategies to identify, treat, and ultimately prevent allergic reactions to food products. Specifically, Dr. Little initially will address peanut allergies as a focus of this research initiative.

To learn more about the Food Allergy Research Initiative, you may contact Dr. Little at chrisl@pcom.edu.