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Cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the functioning of osteoblast lineage cells in bone health, disease and regeneration
Belgium (BeMSA) - KU Leuven, Leuven
Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation
Laboratory of Skeletal Cell Biology and Physiology (SCEBP), Skeletal Biology and Engineering Research Center (SBE); Department of Development and Regeneration; Faculty of Medicine, KU Leuven; Gasthuisberg O&N1, box 813; Herestraat 49, Leuven; Belgium
Prof Dr Jan Deprest
Prof Dr Christa Maes
Type of Research Project
- Basic science
What is the background of the project?
Each year, millions of patients suffer a bone fracture. This number will rise even more, given the increasing ageing of the population and the large prevalence of low bone mass disorders such as osteoporosis. Drugs that stimulate bone formation are much needed to help restore the bone mass in osteoporotic patients and to improve fracture healing and bone regeneration strategies. Thorough insights into how healthy bones are built during embryogenesis and maintained in adult life are essential to expose new therapeutic targets.
What is the aim of the project?
The overall objective of the research program of the Laboratory of Skeletal Cell Biology and Physiology (SCEBP) is to gain novel insights in the molecular control of skeletal cell functioning, with a particular focus on osteoblast lineage cells (osteoprogenitors and osteoblasts). We are interested in the mechanisms underlying bone formation in development, adult homeostasis and fracture healing, but also in the significance of osteogenic cell biology in the broader physiological context of the organism. Current projects in the lab focus on roles of skeletal stem and progenitor cells in fracture healing, on the role of osteolineage cells in the development of obesity and diabetes, and on interactions between osteolineage cells, hematopoietic cells, and the skeletal vasculature.
What techniques and methods are used?
As prime working models we use genetically modified mice (conditional and inducible knockout mice, fluorescent lineage tracing), in vitro systems, and a variety of molecular methods. Techniques thus include mouse breeding and dissecting, microCT imaging of bone, histology, histomorphometry, brightfield and fluorescent microscopy, cell culture, DNA/RNA/protein extraction from mouse tissues and cells, PCR, qRT-PCR, Western blot.
What is the role of the student?
- The tasks will be done under supervision
- The student will mainly observe
- The student will observe the practical experiments but will be highly involved in the analysis of the results
What are the tasks expected to be accomplished by the student?
The student will be actively involved in the ongoing research project of one of the SCEBP Lab members. The supervising PhD or postdoctoral researcher will explain the project, demonstrate the techniques and methodologies used while performing experiments, and let the visiting summer student participate in her/his research work. The student will read literature about the topic, ask questions about the work, and participate with a proactive attitude. The student will be introduced to standard laboratory practice and learn specific techniques and methodologies used in fundamental and translational research. The student will become acquainted with the scientific philosophy and principles of running basic science projects. Depending on the level and active involvement of the student, contribution to one of the specific studies and its communication through publication is possible.
Will there be any theoretical teaching provided (preliminary readings, lectures, courses, seminars etc)
Not really, although seminars within the institute can be attended by the student. Typically, during the summer months fewer meetings and seminars are organized.
What is expected from the student at the end of the research exchange? What will be the general outcome of the student?
- No specific outcome is expected
What skills are required of the student? Is there any special knowledge or a certain level of studies needed?
The student should have good knowledge of basic cell biology and molecular biology. Knowledge of standard laboratory techniques, either theoretical or practical, is a plus. A FELASA certificate is required for handling animals. Without certificate, the student will be able to observe the procedures with living animals and to actively contribute to the work on postmortem samples. Subjects passed: basic knowledge of cell biology, molecular biology, and physiology is required. Previous experience with basic laboratory techniques / limited experience with lab work in biomedical sciences is expected.
Are there any legal limitations in the student’s involvement
Type of students accepted
This project accepts: - Graduated students (less than 6 months) - Students in biomedical fields
- Dirckx N; Van Hul M & Maes C. (2013). Osteoblast recruitment to sites of bone formation in skeletal development; homeostasis; and regeneration. Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. 99: 170-191.
- Maes C. et al. (2010). Osteoblast precursors; but not mature osteoblasts; move into developing and fractured bones along with invading blood vessels. Developmental Cell; 19: 329-344.
- Dirckx N. et al. (2018). Vhl deletion in osteoblasts boosts cellular glycolysis and improves global glucose metabolism. J Clin Invest. 128 (3): 1087-1105.
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