The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year grant of nearly $2 million to Joseph Wallace, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, in support of research that is expected to identify ways to build bone mass and improve bone quality.
Wallace’s research involves both mechanical properties of bone and bone mass, attempting to keep bones from fracturing by increasing the amount of bone through mechanical stimulation and improving the quality of the bone with pharmaceutical treatment. Collagen is targeted as an interventional approach to improving the bone material properties.
“We’re trying to use combination therapies, where we can both increase the amount of material that’s present but at the same time modify the quality of that tissue to enhance its ability to bear load without fracture,” Wallace said. “That’s the focus of this grant, to understand those quality-based effects that can enhance bone fracture resistance.”
The research project, “Targeting Collagen as an Interventional Approach to Improve Bone Material Properties,” is being funded through the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
Wallace likens collagen to rebar, the metal reinforcement put in place before concrete is poured. Collagen helps support loads on the bones, such as the impact of one’s weight while walking. While most research today is focused on the mineral portion of bone, Wallace is looking at ways to modify the collagen component so that bones can better resist fractures. He is working with the FDA-approved drug raloxifene to determine if certain components of the drug can increase bone’s mechanical properties by improving tissue quality.
“With this grant, we will continue research to provide new ways of approaching the treatment of fragility-related diseases,” Wallace said. “From osteoporosis to diabetes’ effects on bone mass to genetic childhood diseases, this research could have a far-reaching positive impact for those suffering from many diseases with musculoskeletal complications.”
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