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Bone and Brain Axis

The human body relies on vital functions of multiple organs. Our bones act as the body’s scaffolds, whereas our brain controls intelligence, senses, body movement and behaviour. Bones and the brain seemed to function independently until we learnt recently that the rate of dementia is over 40% higher in elderly people who have suffered bone fractures. How different organ systems communicate and work together remains unclear. The Bone – Kidney axis serves as one of the best examples of organ systems interaction and illustrates how bones regulate the functions of another organ. The Bone and Brain Axis Research group, led by Professor Minghao Zheng, is exploring the interaction between bones and the brain, in particular the relationship between bone fractures and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The vision of the group is to transform knowledge and technologies developed in orthopaedics into treatments for neurological disorders.

Research Focus

The Bone and Brain Axis Research group aims to identify the causal relationship between bone fracture and dementia. Research group leader, Professor Minghao Zheng, is also the inventor of the patented collagen-based tissue regeneration technology CelgroTM, and his team is testing this scaffold in peripheral nerve regeneration. Based on Professor Zheng’s extensive experience in orthopaedics, the group is also exploring the role of bone/dentin matrix proteins in the brain.

Exploring the causal relationship between bone fracture and dementia

Bone-derived factors secreted by osteocytes from bones into the bloodstream may affect brain function. The Bone and Brain Axis Research group is investigating how these factors change during bone fracture, and affect neurogenesis as well as amyloid β plaque formation in the brain. The clinical relevance of the factors is being evaluated through measurement of levels in the serum or cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s patients.

Improving peripheral nerve regeneration using collagen-based scaffold

Professor Zheng’s patented collagen-based scaffold has been recently approved by the FDA for use in dental implants. In studies of peripheral nerve regeneration, the scaffold has resulted in significant improvement in one quadriplegic patient: from complete paralysis the patient regained arm and hand functions, including brushing their teeth and transferring in and out of their wheelchair. The use of this technology for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy is being actively tested.

Exploring the role of bone/dentin matrix protein in the brain

Dentin matrix protein 1 (DMP1) is expressed predominantly during bone and tooth development. Professor Zheng’s team discovered a novel subpopulation of astrocytes expressing Dmp1 that were located in the vicinity of blood vessels. The team is now studying the role of DMP1 +ve astrocytes in maintaining the integrity of blood-brain barriers, the body’s key defence against potential pathogens and toxins.


  • Lloyd, Zheng, Barrett, Cook, James & Besier. Australian Research Council Linkage Grant for "Intelligent training (iTraining) for the human Achilles tendon" (2019-2021)
  • Zheng. MTP Connect Program in conjunction with Griffith University for “Development of a 3D printed graft for surgical repair of the scapholunate interosseous wrist ligament (SLIL)” (2019 – 2021)

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