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Girk channels in cartilage development and repair

Research Grant Recipient: Jennifer Westendorf, PhD

Award Value: $250,000

Research Focus: Osteoarthritis

Project Summary: This project will help determine how proteins called Girk2 and Girk3 contribute to cartilage formation and repair in the setting of osteoarthritis. The investigators believe that osteoarthritis can be prevented if these proteins are absent or inactive. This work will lead to the development of better strategies to treat osteoarthritis.

Year 1 Progress Report:

Osteoarthritis is a common and debilitating disease characterized by cartilage damage or loss. This RMM-funded project explores how molecules called Girks control cartilage formation. Girks form channels on cell surfaces and regulate how much potassium enters and leaves cells. We found that Girks act as breaks on cartilage formation and that removing Girks increases cartilage in long bones. During the first year of the award, we found that deletion of just one Girk is sufficient to generate longer bones. We are on schedule to complete the aims within a year. Drugs affecting these Girk channels could be developed to enhance cartilage formation and promote regeneration in osteoarthritic joints.

Dr. Westendorf studies the molecular the epigenetic basis for skeltal formation, the regeneration of bone and cartilage, and the growth of pirmary and metastatic bone tumors. She is the vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and a consultant for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Mayo Clinic.

Jennifer Westendorf, PhD