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CCDA Research

Center for Chronic Disorders of Aging (CCDA) researchers are involved in a number of projects related to neurodegenerative disease, cartilage and bone, cardiovascular disease, food allergies and more. Learn more about current CCDA research efforts below.


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.

Within the CCDA, a number of unique projects have focused on neurodegenerative disease research including:

Causative factors for Alzheimer's Disease

Research focused 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.

Manipulative treatment for Parkinson's Disease patients

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, researchers 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.

Manipulative treatment for multiple sclerosis patients

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.

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.

Reperfusion injury following myocardial ischemia

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.

Manipulative treatment research

CCDA researchers have also 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.

Investigating remodeling of cartilage and bone

Dr. Marina D'Angelo has investigated 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 research

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.

Translational research practices have led to advances in Alzheimer's disease research, patient outcomes using Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) and more.

Basic research → Clinical application

The presence of the CCDA has facilitated translational research from basic science mechanisms towards clinical application both within PCOM and outside its walls. Examples include:

Alzheimer's Disease
Numerous peer-reviewed publications and review articles on Chlamydia pneumoniae involvement in Alzheimer's Disease (AD) have been authored by PCOM investigators in conjunction with collaborators at Wayne State University School of Medicine. This research may result in therapeutic approaches using combinations of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs in preventing and combating AD.

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment
Examination of the inter-reliability of palpatory tests coupled with use of innovative methods for measuring the actual hand pressure used to palpate or deliver OMT as well as correlation with the amount of hysteresis present in the tissues being examined before and after care has the potential to dramatically improve the evidence base underlying osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). This research will improve reporting of findings and teaching of procedures in osteopathic schools and permit better titration of clinical application of OMT.

Clinical research → Clinical care

CCDA translational clinical research activity was instituted in conjunction with members of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and its Human Performance and Biomechanics Laboratory. Subjects who have participated in previous research projects and who have experienced benefits from their protocol might have the opportunity to continue in a translational clinical research setting. Examples include:

Multiple Sclerosis patients
Multiple sclerosis patients having access to ongoing care with IsoPUMP® Maximal Effort Exercise equipment. In several studies using this protocol, individuals with MS have gained strength lasting for months after discontinuing their exercise protocol. There were also improvements in memory, gait and other measures.

Parkinson's Disease patients
Parkinson's disease patients having continued access to OMT and/or with periodic acceleration therapy (PAT). Preliminary data is showing an improvement in gait for either modality and other osteopathic institutions have shown improvement with OMT.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome patients
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) patients having access to OMT and/or certain energy-emitting devices such as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or therapeutic magnetic resonance (TMR). Studies have shown benefits when OMT is added to other conservative care and numerous positive comments have been seen in reducing pain and improving function with the energy-emitting devices alone or in concert with OMT.

Lower back pain patients
Studies look at low back pain patients with lumbar spondylolisthesis (forward slippage of the spine) who have access to use the Levitor® pelvic orthotic device and OMT. Numerous studies have demonstrated improvement in posture and/or back pain for patients with this spinal disorder and treatment with this combined protocol.


Beyond Philadelphia

Although the geographic base is located on PCOM's Philadelphia campus, the CCDA reaches beyond our institution's walls regionally, nationally and internationally.

The purpose of such collaborative interactions is to increase the ability of all partners to meet our common mission by drawing from the talents of experts with diverse backgrounds and to better target multiple demographic patient populations. The role of the CCDA is to serve as an organizing and coordinating center to promote team building and sharing of resources.

Collaborating healthcare professionals

The CCDA is structured to both create new measurement instruments and to play a role in training research technicians, osteopathic physicians, physicians-in-training and doctoral candidates as well as post-doctoral fellows to conduct tests in a standardized fashion.

The CCDA implements practices such as using identical or similar research instruments and adopting standardized protocols to enhance collaboration between departments and institutions. Additionally, collaborating institutions may be able to perform tests not otherwise available at a given institution where there may be limitations with personnel and infrastructure support.

Interested in collaborating with us? Email us at ccda@pcom.edu.