Emory to study ties between periodontal disease, Alzheimer's risk

The Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing has received a $3.9 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study how the oral microbiome is tied to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Several risk factors are associated with Alzheimer’s, which affects millions of Americans. These factors include demographic, genetic, lifestyle, medical, environmental, psychiatric, and infectious. The Emory team is exploring the potential impact of one such factor: periodontal disease. 

The research is being led by Irene Yang, PhD. Yang said that while interest in exploring the potential ties between periodontal disease and Alzheimer's is growing, the underlying mechanism for this proposed association is unknown. Yang added that a "major obstacle" in this field is the lack of a cross-kingdom (bacterial, viral, and fungal) characterization of the oral microbiome of periodontal disease related to Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Yang and colleagues will study the oral bacteria, viruses, and fungi present in cognitively normal individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s. They will also explore the relationships among periodontal disease-associated microbiome features, inflammation, social determinants of oral health, and Alzheimer’s disease spinal fluid biomarkers over the course of two years.

The university added that generated data from this study will inform more extensive studies funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, as well as provide one of the largest and most comprehensive characterizations of the oral microbiome in a racially diverse sample of individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s.

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