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Bred in the Bone

Can the strength of your bones provide a key to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease?

NEOMED’s Christine Dengler-Crish, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, anatomy and neurobiology, has intriguing findings. She and her research team, including graduate students Matthew Smith (NEOMED) and Gina Wilson (Kent State University) have discovered that early reductions in bone mineral density (BMD) found in a preclinical (animal) model of Alzheimer’s Disease may be due to degeneration in an area of the brainstem that produces most of the brain’s serotonin.

It’s an intriguing discovery, since the neurochemical serotonin affects our mood and sleep — two processes that are also affected early in Alzheimer’s. Since fewer than five percent of Alzheimer’s cases are clearly from genetic reasons, these new clues are especially significant and may allow earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease
processes. Besides indicating risk, reduced BMD can lead to osteoporosis and a higher risk of broken bones, decreasing quality of life and increasing mortality in Alzheimer’s patients.

Dr. Dengler-Crish’s research bridges two focus areas at NEOMED: Musculoskeletal Biology and Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging.