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Regulation of cartilage and bone homeostasis in development and in disease

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Osteoarthritis is a joint condition, characterised by loss of cartilage and increased bone deposition, that affects millions of people worldwide and for which there is currently no pharmaceutical cure. Recent studies have shown that there is a strong genetic component of the disease and that many of the genes and signals implicated in osteoarthritis progression overlap with those involved in normal skeletal development.  By gaining a better understanding of the genes and signals that control the formation of the joint we aim to identify and characterise targets which could be used to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis.

We use the zebrafish as a model because it combines excellent genetics with beautiful imaging possibilities, allowing us to study the development of the skeletal system dynamically in vivo. Using transgenic lines we can follow the behaviour and fate choices made by the cartilage cells (chondrocytes) surrounded by the other tissues of the joint such as bone and muscle. Zebrafish can also develop joint abnormalities with strong similarities to osteoarthritis. The lab uses an integrated approach based on genetics, cell biology, biomechanics and biochemistry with the end goal of understanding how genes and the mechanical environment interact to shape joints during development and in disease states like osteoarthritis.

This area contributes to the wider Cell Signalling and Biology research theme within the School of Physiology and Pharmacology.