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Commentary on the link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s

By April 10, 2019Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Christian Salazar, PhD, Project Scientist

The link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease has received considerable attention over the past few years. The recent laboratory findings in mice from Potempa and colleagues are consistent with evidence from mostly cross-sectional observational studies in humans that suggest an association between the two diseases.

However, as the article notes, we are still far from establishing a cause-and-effect relationship in humans. Not only is there difficulty in translating findings from mice to humans, but cross-sectional studies that collect data at one point in time can have many methodological limitations. For example, poor cognitive function might lead to poor oral health, so it’s unclear which disease came first. A well designed clinical trial with a long follow-up period might offer the evidence needed to establish a causal link, if it exists.

Dr. Salazar’s research aims to understand the mechanisms that create health disparities across the lifespan in vulnerable populations, such as those who are socially disadvantaged and ethnoracial minorities who remain underrepresented in clinical research. His previous work has examined the potential link between oral infections and systemic diseases in ethnic minorities. As a recent addition to UCI MIND, Dr. Salazar’s role as project scientist involves fostering community-based partnerships with Asian and Hispanic/Latino organizations to improve participation of minority groups in Alzheimer’s disease research.