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Release: Aug. 5, 2002

Long-term UI study expands with new grant focused on bone development

Researchers affiliated with the Iowa Fluoride Study -- a project that has monitored fluoride intake, dental health and other factors in young children for more than a decade -- has received a new grant to fund related research on bone development.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) awarded the $744,437 grant in spring 2002. These funds support expansion of the Iowa Bone Development Study, an investigation of children's bone growth using participants in the fluoride project. The new grant is the latest in a series of NIDCR awards for the project.

The original fluoride study begun by Steven Levy, D.D.S., M.P.H., UI professor of preventive and community dentistry and epidemiology, and colleagues has spawned additional projects due to its detailed recording of participating children's dietary habits, fluoride consumption and other factors. About 700 families currently participate in the study. Parents complete regular questionnaires and accompany children to dental screenings every few years.

The Iowa Bone Development Study collects additional data on children's physical activity and uses low-radiation X-rays to chart bone density and growth. Genetic screenings also let researchers examine the effects of genes thought to influence bone development.

The new grant will help investigators gather information on participating children's parents.

"This is the only study of its type where data are being collected concerning parents' bone mass and density, dietary factors, genetics and physical activity during adolescence and adulthood," Levy said. "These data will be combined with similar children's data, and the family information will help us better understand bone development."

The bone study already has yielded findings showing that increased physical activity can improve children's bone health. Likewise, the fluoride study has determined that fluoride intake varies more than researchers expected, perhaps explaining why previous research has had trouble identifying factors linked to dental fluorosis — cosmetic changes to teeth associated with fluoride exposure.An interdisciplinary team from the UI Colleges of Dentistry, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Medicine, and Public Health conducts the study. Levy's co-investigators include James Torner, Ph.D., professor and chair of epidemiology; Trudy Burns, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics and epidemiology; Marcia Willing, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics; Kathy Janz, Ed.D., associate professor of health and sport studies and epidemiology; John Warren, D.D.S., M.S., assistant professor of preventive and community dentistry; and Teresa Marshall, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of preventive and community dentistry. Julie Gilmore and Joan Grabin are project coordinators. The project is conducted at and supported by the UI General Clinical Research Center.

"Because of the stability of the population and cooperation in Iowa, this is a perfect state in which to do a study like this," Levy said. "Our staff is very appreciative of the families that have remained with us for this long, and we hope to continue to make important contributions to our understanding of bone health."