Published:December 5, 2016 9:27 pm
Changes in the bones may act as one of the earliest indicators of brain degeneration in people with Alzheimer’s disease, a new study has found. Researchers at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) in the US have identified the link between areas of the brainstem – the ancient area that controls mood, sleep and metabolism – and detrimental changes to bone in a preclinical model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
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Alzheimer’s has major social, emotional and financial consequences for patients and their families. Incurable and seemingly unstoppable, less than five per cent of AD cases are due to a clear genetic reason, so it is hard to predict who will be at risk for acquiring this devastating disease.
Researchers report that early reductions in bone mineral density (BMD) that occur in a preclinical model of AD are due to degeneration in an area of the brainstem that produces the majority of the brain’s serotonin – a neurochemical that controls mood and sleep, which are two processes that are also affected early in AD.
One’s bones may be one of the earliest indicators of brain degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced BMD, which sometimes leads to osteoporosis, translates to increased bone fracture risk, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality for AD patients.
Researchers suggest that early bone loss and serotonin deficiency in AD may tell us something very important about how we approach diagnosing and treating this disease.
“Measurement of bone density, which is routinely performed in the clinic, could serve as a useful biomarker for assessing AD risk in our ageing population,” said Christine Dengler-Crish, assistant professor at NEOMED.
“The findings of this study motivate us to explore the serotonin system as a potential new therapeutic target for this devastating disease,” she said. The study appears in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.