The University of Rochester Medical Center has been awarded a $7.5 million federal grant through the Centers of Research Translation to support programs searching for new therapies for arthritis and bone healing, officials said Wednesday.
The five-year grant begins Sept. 1, with scientists investigating mainly the regulation of stem cell joints in tissue and bone and how tissues respond after musculoskeletal injury to knees and hips.
Much of their work will involve parathyroid hormone, an essential ingredient in the drug Forteo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Forteo to treat osteoporosis, but URMC orthopedics researchers believe they can demonstrate that the hormone also builds cartilage around joints and can activate stem cells for healing degenerating joint tissues and bone fractures.
If they are correct, research into parathyroid hormone could lead to new therapies for many patients with osteoarthritis, UR officials said.
The grant funds three major initiatives—investigating Forteo as a treatment for osteoarthritis following traumatic knee injury; investigating the role of parathyroid hormone in fracture repair in the context of aging, which delays the healing of connective tissues; and translating how parathyroid hormone therapy can improve the healing of major bone defects caused by trauma.
Musculoskeletal diseases are a major economic burden in the United States, especially as the population grows older, and the award places the URMC in a leadership role for seeking solutions, university officials said.
“This was an extremely competitive process,” said Mark Taubman, dean of UR’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. “The CORT award is a major achievement for the medical center and our programs in musculoskeletal research and patient care.”
The structure of CORT promotes strong collaboration among scientists and rewards institutions that build on previous work in an integrated environment, said Regis O’Keefe, the project’s principal investigator who also is the Marjorie Strong Wehle Professor in Orthopedics and department chair.
“The best approach to solving challenging scientific problems is when teams of investigators bring different skills and perspectives and a different understanding of an array of technologies and methods,” O’Keefe said. “It’s the knowledge of the entire group and not just one individual that produces results.”
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