BME Assistant Professor Brian Diekman and his team have recently been awarded two NIH Grants totaling over $400K for Osteoarthritis Research (OA). On the one hand, the R21 grant provides two years of funding for “high risk / high reward” projects. Dr. Diekman’s lab will study a small genetic change that encodes an extra-cellular matrix protein known as chondroadherin-like (Chadl). While rare, those with this genetic risk factor are nearly 8-times as likely to have a total hip replacement due to OA. Understanding how this change accelerates the aging of cartilage will lead to a better understanding of this process across patients of all genetic backgrounds.
On the other hand, the R56 grant provides one year of funding to enable a project to begin while applying for long-term R01 funding. Dr. Diekman has teamed up with Dr. Richard Loeser, a leading rheumatologist and Director of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center and Dr. Jeremy Purvis, Associate Professor in the UNC Department of Genetics, to study the how chondrocytes change during aging. Chondrocytes that become senescent are thought to contribute to the loss of cartilage, but more work is needed in order to selectively eliminate these cells as a treatment for OA.
The above grants will support the overall goal of the Diekman lab, which is to elucidate the biology of aging as a way to catalyze new therapeutic strategies for osteoarthritis (OA). Moreover, the preliminary phases of these projects were supported by numerous institutional sources: NC TraCS, the Comparative Medicine Institute, TARC, the UNC School of Medicine Office of Research, the UNC Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and our UNC/ NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. Congratulations to Dr. Diekman and his lab on these well deserved grants! You can read the official announcement on the UNC News website here. For those interested in their research, there is a temporary research technician position open in Dr. Diekman’s lab here.