Feds fund NYIT ‘skeletal repair’ research

All ears: The newly discovered gene Mustn1 (darker purple) courses through an embryonic mouse. Researchers at NYIT will listen closely to what the gene has to say about "skeletal repair."

A New York Institute of Technology professor has landed a sizeable federal grant to study the bone-healing possibilities of gene-generated “skeletal repair.”

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $442,000 to life sciences professor Michael Hadjiargyrou, who will use the multi-year grant to study Mustn1, a newly discovered musculoskeletal-specific gene, and “determine its role in cartilage regeneration and skeletal repair,” according to NYIT.

Hadjiargyrou’s research will also shed light on a new and as yet uncharacterized protein family important for cartilage and bone biology.

Specifically, the NIH stipend will be used to create genetically altered mice, with Mustn1 deleted at various stages of development. Experimenting on the “knockout mice” will allow Hadjiargyrou’s team, including NYIT students, to establish the role Mustn1 plays as a regulator in cartilage cells – and a necessary ingredient for cartilage formation during both embryonic development and fracture repair.

Mustn1, which was first discovered in Hadjiargyrou’s laboratory, represents a newly discovered family of proteins: Musculoskeletal Temporally Activated Novel Genes. While Hadjiargyrou’s prior research has demonstrated that Mustn1 is a factor in cartilage formation, he and his researchers are keen to discover its exact significance during bone development and regeneration by analyzing various conditions with and without the presence of the gene.

Michael Hadjiargyrou: In his bones.

The bigger project behind Hadjiargyrou’s research involves identifying and understanding genes activated during the repair of a fractured bone, in order to address a major challenge in orthopedic medicine: how to stimulate cartilage and bone regeneration necessary to repair skeletal trauma and damage from various diseases.

Noting that he and other researchers have already “worked with several genes we consider to be important in the regeneration process,” Hadjiargyrou said the NIH grant could ultimately prove key to unlocking a new field of genomic medicine.

“We all know people who have suffered from fractures, arthritis or other joint or bone injuries,” the scientist said Tuesday. “This research into the genomics of bone healing could lead, eventually, to new gene-based therapies.”

This grant comes from the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which according to NYIT has funded some of Hadjiargyrou’s prior work. The fact that the NIH keeps returning to Hadjiargyrou is proof the NYIT researcher has got the goods, according to Niharika Nath, who chairs NYIT’s Department of Life Sciences.

“Funding by NIH is highly competitive,” Nath said in a statement. “A successful grant has to put forward a new science or engineering solution to an urgent scientific need, which Michael’s does.

“Receiving this grant will bring continued lab research opportunities for NYIT undergraduates in the life sciences,” Nath added.

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