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New research probes bone-brain link for Alzheimer’s

21/09/23 - WA-led international research recently published indicates a pathological link between osteoporosis and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Findings of a research collaboration involving Professor Minghao Zheng’s Bone and Brain research group at the Perron Institute and UWA and Professor Ralph Martins’ Alzheimer’s research group at Edith Cowan and Macquarie Universities suggest that bone loss as people age may result in the release of a factor that affects brain function.

The study involving multiple national and international institutions investigated the association between levels of sclerostin, a protein mainly produced by bone cells, and amyloid beta load in the brain measured by PET-scanning, which is one of the major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.

Study leader and joint first author, Dr Jun Yuan (Perron Institute and UWA) said increasing age was a known risk factor for both Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis, the bone weakening, fracture risk disease caused by loss of bone mineral density and bone mass.

“Also well-observed clinically is the correlation between people with osteoporosis and a tendency to develop Alzheimer’s in later life,” Dr Yuan said.

“There has, however, been a lack of clear understanding of whether bone-derived factors are associated with the brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease.

“This latest research indicates that sclerostin has a potential negative impact on the brain, playing a role in age-related cognitive decline.

“A link between sclerostin and amyloid beta deposition in the brain of older adults with high risk of developing Alzheimer’s indicates that elevated levels of sclerostin in the blood are a promising biomarker for early detection of this disease.

“This is the first study pointing to direct evidence of bone impact on Alzheimer’s disease and will draw further attention to the importance of the two-way interaction between bone and brain, known as the bone-brain axis. Thank you for the support from Professor Martins’ team who has set up the cohort that enable us to conduct the work together,” Dr Yuan said.

The study enrolled one hundred older adults with normal cognitive function from the Kerr Anglican Retirement Village Initiative in Aging Health cohort, led by Professor Martins. In this cohort, sclerostin was compared to other biomarkers such as amyloid beta 40 and 42, neurofilament light, glial fibrillary acidic protein and phosphorylated tau, and was found to complement existing biomarkers to assist in detecting preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead authors include joint first author Dr Steve Pedrini (ECU), corresponding author Professor Zheng, and senior author Professor Martins.

The other authors are Rohith Thota, James Doecke, Pratishtha Chatterjee, Hamid R Sohrabi, Charlotte E Teunissen, Inge MW Verberk, Erik Stoops, Hugo Vanderstichele, Bruno P Meloni, Christopher Mitchell, Stephanie Rainey-Smith, Kathryn Goozee, Andrew Chi Pang Tai, Nicholas Ashton, Henrik Zetterberb, Kaj Blennow, Junjie Gao, Delin Liu, Frank Mastaglia and Charles Inderjeeth.

The paper titled: ‘Elevated Plasma Sclerostin is Associated with High Brain Amyloid-β Load in Cognitively Normal Older Adults’ was published recently in the journal npj Aging.

Photo: Dr Jun Yuan in the Perron Institute lab.

Media contact:

Tennille Kroemer, Communications Manager, Perron Institute

M: 0426 044 223



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