Can periodontal infections increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease? A one-year pilot study by the College of Dentistry, in collaboration with the School of Medicine, seeks to answer this question with the help of a grant from the School of Medicine’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Angela Kamer, an Assistant Professor of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry, hypothesizes that inflammatory molecules associated with periodontal disease increase Alzheimer’s risk by further elevating the high level of brain inflammation that contributes to Alzheimer’s pathogenesis. To test this hypothesis, she is examining plasma samples from 200 subjects – approximately half of them Alzheimer’s patients, the other half healthy people – to determine if a greater proportion of the Alzheimer’s subjects had elevated levels of antibodies to periodontal bacteria.
Dr. Kamer is using plasma samples originally gathered for other studies on aging, memory loss, and early Alzheimer’s diagnosis by her lead coinvestigator, Dr. Mony de Leon, Director of the School of Medicine’s Center for Brain Health. Her other coinvestigators include Dr. Miroslaw Brys and Dr. Lidia Sobranska, both visiting physicians at the Center for Brain Health; Dr. Ronald G. Craig, an Associate Professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology and of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry; and Dr. Ananda Dasanayake, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, both at the College of Dentistry.
Other recent College of Dentistry/School of Medicine collaborations on oral-systemic health links include an in-depth, NIH-funded study on pre-term birth risk factors that is expected to shed light on the link between periodontal disease and prematurity, and a study that showed that pregnant women with high levels of oral bacteria associated with dental caries were at risk for delivering pre-term, low birth weight babies.