Researchers at Northeast Ohio Medical University, led by a BW alumna, have discovered a connection between bone density and Alzheimer’s disease.

Psychology Grad's Research Finds Link Between Bone Density and Alzheimer’s

November 17, 2016

Researchers at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), led by a Baldwin Wallace University psychology graduate, have discovered a connection between bone density and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Under the direction of Christine Dengler-Crish ‘99, Ph.D., the NEOMED research team found that reduced bone mineral density occurs at a much greater rate in patients with Alzheimer’s, often emerging before significant cognitive decline is seen. 

These early reductions in bone mineral density are tied to degeneration in an area of the brainstem that produces most of the brain’s serotonin -- a neurochemical that helps to regulate mood, sleep and metabolism.

New Screening and Treatment Target

NEOMED logoThe findings suggest that declines in bone health could be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s risk, offering potential guidance in the diagnosis and treatment of AD.

“Measurement of bone density, which is routinely performed in the clinic, could serve as a useful biomarker for assessing AD risk in our aging population,” notes Dengler-Crish in a NEOMED news release. “The findings of this study motivate us to explore the serotonin system as a potential new therapeutic target for this devastating disease.”

“This is extremely exciting and has significant translational potential and relevance to early detection of the disease,” said Jason R Richardson, Ph.D., DABT, director for Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging Research at NEOMED.

International Journal Publication

JAD logoThe study, titled “Early Evidence of Low Bone Density and Decreased Serotonergic Synthesis in the Dorsal Raphe of a Tauopathy Model of Alzheimer’s Disease,” will be published in the upcoming issue of the international Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dengler-Crish, who, after graduating from BW, added a master’s in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Vanderbilt University, has also been named an associate editor for the journal.

“I am thrilled to be able to assist the publication of researchers’ innovative work, here and across the world, that is desperately needed to combat these currently incurable chronic diseases,” said Dengler-Crish, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, and anatomy and neurobiology at NEOMED. “Now more than ever, there is hope that we soon will be able to slow, stop or reverse the progression of these destructive neurodegenerative conditions.”