Supervisor: Adetola Adesida
Project: Women, spaceflight and osteoarthritis
Doctor of Medicine
What do you get to work on throughout your studentship?
I get to work on growing the human meniscus cells in microgravity and analyzing the physical and genetic differences.
How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?
I come from a graduate engineering background, and I aspire to use my engineering abilities to develop new technologies in medicine. This studentship has allowed me to gain valuable training in a multidisciplinary laboratory and mentorship from Dr. Adesida who has expertise in integrating basic science, engineering, and clinical medicine.
Knee osteoarthritis is a disease that damages knee joints and becomes increasingly prevalent with age. Knee osteoarthritis occurs significantly more frequently in women and 10 years earlier in comparison to men. Systemic hormone levels cannot alone explain this difference in incidence between sexes and insufficient research has been done to determine the genetic mechanisms responsible. The poorer outcomes in women may be a result of increased degeneration in a part of the knee called the meniscus. It has been shown that a higher percentage of aging women in comparison to men, 70% of women versus 40% of men over the age of 70, experience degeneration in the meniscus. A weightless environment can induce osteoarthritic gene expression in growing meniscus cells. Thus, we grow male and female meniscus cells in this weightless environment to induce osteoarthritic gene expression. We expect to see higher osteoarthritic gene expression in female meniscus cells despite being grown in identical environments. By analyzing the DNA of the samples grown under weightless conditions, we can determine the molecular basis and mechanisms underlying the increased incidence of osteoarthritis in women. This can then be used to improve treatment for women with knee osteoarthritis through targeted gene therapy.