Research in the Skeletal Biology Laboratory focuses on how environmental factors, such as diet, exercise, disease, and climate, affect bone acquisition in childhood, maintenance in adulthood, and loss during bone aging. For example, does having Type 2 diabetes during childhood bone growth lead to weaker adult bones and higher osteoporosis risk? Does growing up in a warmer or colder climate change bone size and/or shape in a predictable way? And what are the biological mechanisms underlying these changes? These studies have dual relevance for clinical efforts to maximize bone mass and prevent osteoporosis in living humans, and for anthropological questions about the evolution of human bone size and shape.
Our approach to these questions combines comparative methods and experimental models, including controlled experiments in wildtype and genetically modified strains. To measure bone mass, body composition, and cortical and trabecular bone morphology, we use two key imaging techniques, peripheral dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (pDXA) and microcomputed tomography (microCT). We label bone formation with fluorochrome dyes (e.g. calcein) followed by histology and histomorphometry to measure bone and fat cells and obtain static and dynamic indices of bone growth. Once we have established a model through controlled experiments, the next step is to test the model using comparative human data, including through analyses of existing longitudinal data sets.
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