Osteoclasts: Janus Cells of Bone Disease
Musculoskeletal disorders affect people of all ages. The destruction of bone that occurs in this group of disorders (which include osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and periodontitis), is carried out by osteoclasts. In health, these cells help maintain strong bones. But in disease, the cells not only destroy bone, but also play a primary role in establishing primary and metastatic bone tumours.
Canada Research Chair Svetlana Komarova works at decoding the events that follow the stimulation of osteoclast to begin destroying bone. Osteoclasts are particularly challenging to work with because these very active cells are present in bone only in small numbers. To carry out her research, Komarova employs innovative sophisticated technologies - such as high-speed imaging of live cells, confocal microscopy, and quantitative gene expression analysis - that provide information even when only a few cells are available for study.
Komarova also uses mathematical modelling to better understand the consequences of interactions among various molecules that regulate osteoclasts. In this way she is able to integrate and analyze the experimental data more efficiently. Moreover, the predictions produced by the modeling help her to develop new testable hypotheses and experimental designs. Komarova's research into how osteoclasts work may lead to the development of new types of therapy for a variety of debilitating bone diseases.