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Bone and Brain Axis

The human body relies on vital functions of multiple organs. Our bones act as the human body’s scaffolds, whereas our brain controls intelligence, senses, body movement and behaviour. They seemed to be irrelevant until we recently learnt 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 in our body remains unclear. The Bone-Kidney axis so far serves as one of the best examples for the interaction organ systems and the best illustration of 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 bone and brain in particular the relationship between bone fractures and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The vision of his group is to transform knowledge and technologies developed in orthopaedics to the 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 Head, Professor Minghao Zheng is also the inventor of the collagen-based tissue regeneration technology, his team are focused on testing his patented collagen-based scaffold on peripheral nerve regeneration. Based on Professor Zheng’s extensive experience in the area of orthopaedics, he is further leading his team to explore 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 the functions of our brain. We are currently investigating how these factors change during bone fracture and affect the neurogenesis as well as the amyloid β plaque formation in the brain. We are also evaluating their clinical relevance by examining their 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 FDA for dental implants. This technology at its trial stages on peripheral nerve regeneration has revealed huge improvement in one quadriplegic patient from complete paralysis to regaining arm and hand functions including brushing their teeth and transferring in and out of their wheelchair. 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 predominantly expressed during bone and tooth development. Our team discovered a novel subpopulation of astrocytes expressing Dmp1 preferably adhered to endothelial cells. We are currently investigating the role of DMP1 +ve astrocytes on maintaining the integrity of blood-brain barriers, our body’s key defence against pathogens and toxins potentially present in our blood.

Grants

  • 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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