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Genetics and epigenetics of aging and osteoarthritis

PI: Malwina Czarny-Ratajczak, Ph.D.

Research Focus

Genetic and epigenetic factors that contribute to aging and osteoarthritis.


Analysis of the Function of miRNA 129

Discovery of miRNAs in the human genome showed a new direction in human genetics. MiRNAs are involved in many regulatory pathways, an abnormal expression or binding of these molecules contributes to many diseases. The major purpose of this study is to investigate the function of miRNA129 at the cellular level.

Telomere Length and Aging

Telomeres are specialized nucleoprotein complexes located at the end of chromosomes. Enzyme telomerase functions to extend telomeres however, it is not expressed in the vast majority of somatic cells in the body therefore, telomere length shortens with each cell division. Oxidative stress and DNA damage have been associated with accelerated shortening of telomere length. Once telomere length reaches a critical threshold, cellular senescence is triggered, further cell division does not occur, and the cell eventually dies. Thus telomere length is linked to the aging process. This study is attempts to identify the effect of telomere length on human aging and genetic factors that modify telomere length.

Genetic and Epigenetic Factors in Osteoarthritis

Primary OA is a common debilitating disease involving degeneration of the articular cartilage of joints, particularly hips, knees, lumbar and cervical spine, as well as joints of the hands. Histological changes in joints with osteoarthritis vary from minor erosion of cartilage to total cartilage loss, requiring joint replacement surgery. Multiple mechanisms are implicated in the development of primary osteoarthritis, in which a genetic background appears to interact with environmental factors and age to initiate the disease and drive its progression. The goal of this project is to investigate novel genetic and epigenetic factors that contribute to osteoarthritis​.