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New Approaches to Parkinson's

Three studies from the University of Pennsylvania demonstrate new approaches to understanding and treating Parkinson’s disease, and eventually even staving it off.

The findings were to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

 "Researchers at Penn Medicine are looking at Parkinson's disease from all angles – ways to improve treatment methods for those currently battling the disease, understanding the root causes of disease, and identifying potential interventions to delay the onset of disease," said Matthew Stern, MD, professor of Neurology in the university’s Perelman School of Medicine. "We are persistent and eager to find better targets and treatments to help patients with Parkinson's disease, which affects up to 1 million Americans and 10 million people globally."

One study, presented by Yosef Berlyand, undergraduate in the laboratory of Alice Chen-Plotkin, MD, assistant professor of Neurology, suggests that statins may be beneficial in Parkinson's disease. Members of Dr. Chen-Plotkin's research group demonstrated that blood levels of the protein Apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1) are lower in people with Parkinson's disease than those without disease.

In another study, Kara Smith, MD, a Movement Disorders fellow, and colleagues, investigated the role estrogen plays in decreasing lifetime risk of PD. (Men have a 1.5 higher risk than women of developing PD.)  In a systemic review of studies using animal models of PD, the team found that 17b-estradiol, in particular, may play a key role in protecting cells from Parkinson's. The team says further research needs to look at 17b-estradiol in more accurate animal models of PD, before results can be translated to clinical trials in people with Parkinson's.

An additional Penn study examined use of telemedicine visits to increase access to specialty care for Parkinson's patients. Such patients live far from care or have disabilities that make travel difficult. In the study, by Jayne Wilkinson, MD, and Meredith Spindler, MD, conducted a randomized controlled trial using video telemedicine that connected patients to a neurologist. Early results demonstrate that  telemedicine for Parkinson's specialty care provided similar quality of life, care and communication, and significantly decreased travel. 

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