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Boning up on circulation

Everyone knows the foot bone's connected to the ankle bone, and the ankle bone's connected to the shinbone. And so on. Rhonda Prisby knows that blood vessels are connected to bones, too.

The kinesiology assistant professor and director of the UT Arlington Bone and Microcirculation Laboratory is researching the link between bone deterioration and poor circulation. She believes that if medicine or exercise can improve blood circulation, then bone deterioration can be reduced.

"Few people look at the relationship between bone circulation/bone blood vessel function and bone mass," Dr. Prisby says. "I'm doing experiments now with PTH (parathyroid hormone) administration to see how it can not only treat osteoporosis but potentially alter bone blood vessel function."

Rhonda Prisby

Rhonda Prisby, kinesiology assistant professor

Initial results are encouraging, and she has applied for funding through the National Institutes of Health.

"We'll see what happens in the experiments, but if you can lessen the problems associated with bone decline by improving blood flow, that's a great help to millions of people," says Prisby, who notes that many lose bone strength or density as they age. "It would be the most satisfying piece of the research, knowing that you've actually helped so many people."

In addition to lessening bone deterioration, the research could address challenges associated with other diseases that affect the skeleton such as Type 2 diabetes and post-menopausal osteoporosis.

"We know the small blood vessels determine where the blood goes. The hope is that we can somehow help these people by also treating the bone blood vessels," Prisby says. "In addition, we need to have a better understanding of the role that the bone vascular system plays during bone growth and deterioration. I think our experiments will point us in that direction."

Prisby became interested in the bone-blood connection when she worked under Michael Delp at Texas A&M University. After he moved his lab to West Virginia University, she spent some time there before heading overseas.

"I decided to go to a bone biology lab in France to study the relationship even more," she says. "France is where I learned bone histomorphometry (examination of the cellular activity of bone on slides)."

And the UT Arlington College of Education and Health Professions is where Prisby is putting that knowledge to work.

"The research done in my laboratory aims to highlight the importance of the bone vascular system for healthy bones."

And keep those connections strong.

- Herb Booth