Bone Health Research

Fracture Risk

This project employs a comprehensive study design that captures variation at each of bone's hierarchical levels to generate a more complete picture of the mechanobiological processes underlying osteoporosis in a baboon model and to discover genes that mediate fracture risk. The goal is to identify the factors other than bone mineral density (this clinical indicator if of limited utility) which can be used to detect individuals at risk for fracture. We have reported differentially expressed mRNA and miRNA related to non-bone mineral density (BMD) risk factors at several levels and established the relationships across levels of organization in the bone.

Diabetes and Bone Health

The goal of this project is to identify composite bone traits contributing to fracture risk in baboon and human vertebrae. In addition to gene expression (mRNA and miRNA), age, inflammation, and hyperglycemia are being investigated as potential risk factors for fracture. This is essential as 85% of fractures occur in individuals with normal BMD and diabetes is a major risk factor for fracture in Texas and elsewhere. Different patterns of gene expression and protein abundance have been identified between healthy older baboons vs. baboons exhibiting signs of skeletal fragility. 

Epigenetics in Early Osteoarthritis

This project evaluates genome-wide patterns of methylation as potential biomarkers of osteoarthritis onset and progression in blood and cartilage. This study uses retrospective blood samples collected across the life course of arthritic baboons for which detailed biomechanical data has been generated. Longitudinal samples are essential in detecting the earliest onset of disease and evaluating the predictive capacity of epigenetic biomarkers.