UMKC Wins $5.4 Million to Research Bone and Muscle Loss

Sarah Dallas and Mark Johnson at the UMKC School of Dentistry Photo by Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

NIH awards grant to Schools of Dentistry, Computing and Engineering and Medicine

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry received a $5.4 million grant award as part of a $10.4 million award to the Indiana University School of Medicine from the National Institute of Aging to continue research into the effects of aging on bone and muscle loss. UMKC researchers have led the way in recognizing and studying how the two conditions — osteoporosis and sarcopenia — often occur together and may interact.

“UMKC is excited to continue this important research that can help solve health problems that affect our families and so many of us as we age,” said UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal.

Bone and muscle loss both are widespread and costly. An estimated 25 million Americans have or are at risk for osteoporosis and resulting fractures, and a similar number of older Americans suffer sarcopenia or diminished muscle mass and function. Together, they are estimated to account for more than $40 billion in annual health care costs. Osteoporosis and sarcopenia often occur together. UMKC research has been at the forefront in recognizing how muscle and bones interact with each other and how one tissue affects the function of the other as well as studying how exercise and other factors can help prevent muscle and bone loss as people age.

The grant will finance five years of work by UMKC research teams led by Mark Johnson, Ph.D., and Sarah Dallas, Ph.D., who are studying the molecular mechanisms by which aging bone and muscle cells communicate with one another, and how exercise and other measures could help reverse or prevent the effects of aging on bone and muscle. Their research teams are supported by co-leaders LeAnn Tiede-Lewis of the School of Dentistry; Ganesh Thiagarajan, Ph.D., P.E., of the School of Computing and Engineering; and Michael Wacker, Ph.D., of the School of Medicine.

The research includes two more teams, led by former UMKC faculty members who are project leaders within the overall program project grant and this collaborative research effort. One of those teams is at the University of Indiana, led by Lynda Bonewald, Ph.D., who is the overall principal investigator of the research. The other is at the University of Texas-Arlington, led by Marco Brotto, Ph.D.

Johnson is the chair of the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences and director of the UMKC Center of Excellence in the Study of Dental and Musculoskeletal Tissues. He is internationally known for his discoveries and work on the regulation of bone mass. Dallas, is the UMKC School of Dentistry’s Lee M. and William Lefkowitz Endowed Professor. She is internationally known for her fundamental research into the role of osteocytes, the cells that regulate bone mass; the dynamic interactions of bone cells; and the effects of bone-muscle “crosstalk” on the skeleton.

“This is a significant accomplishment which brings new excitement for our research program,” said Marsha Pyle, Dean of the UMKC School of Dentistry. “We are grateful for the collaboration in advancing science that will occur because of it.”

| Article by Greg Hack and Stacy Downs, Strategic Marketing and Communications

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