Bone Physiology Lab

Two male students work with scientific equipment.

Reduction in bone strength associated with aging, with resultant increases in the risk for low trauma fracture, represents a prominent and growing problem worldwide. Osteoporotic fractures create devastating consequences, including increased morbidity and mortality, and reductions in quality of life. Thus, interventions that function to increase bone strength and reduce the risk of fracture are highly desirable. One way to improve bone strength is to increase bone size by targeting periosteal bone surfaces during growth and aging. Adding bone to periosteal surfaces increases bone size and yields greater increases in bone strength than changes in bone mass alone. While periosteal bone apposition is an important component of bone health, the molecular pathways involved in its regulation remain unclear.

The goal of Dr. Fuchs’ research is to investigate genetic factors that influence periosteal bone apposition at the tissue and cellular level using novel animal models. In particular, Dr. Fuchs is working on identifying specific genes and molecular pathways involved in regulating periosteal tissue and cellular level responses to anabolic treatments and to fracture. At this time her research focuses on a novel protein called periostin, an extracellular matrix protein preferentially expressed in immature osteoblasts on periosteal bone surfaces. Periostin exhibits unique properties that suggest it may function as a regulatory factor for anabolic actions targeting periosteal bone surfaces. The surface-specificity of periostin suggests that this protein may be an excellent candidate for the development of novel therapies aimed at improving bone strength via periosteal adaptation and may be important for fracture repair.