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Research News

Florent Elefteriou, Ph.D.

Department researchers awarded over $3.1 million in National Institutes of Health grants

Researchers from the Joseph Barnhart Department of Orthopedic Surgery were recently awarded two grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling over $3.1 million. Florent Elefteriou, Ph.D., and his research team were awarded $440,000 for their grant proposal “Characterizing the cell-of-origin for NF1 dystrophic scoliosis.” Patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) can present with a severe form of spine deformity that dramatically affects their quality of life. There is no treatment other than invasive, repeated surgical interventions, hence the goal of this study is to identify the cells and main factors in the spine that contribute to this condition, which is necessary to design preventative or better corrective clinical interventions.

Additionally, the team was awarded over $2.7 million for their proposal titled “TonEBP/Nfat5, vesicular trafficking, and intervertebral disc maintenance.” The transcription factor Nfat5/TonEBP allows cells to survive in a hyperosmotic environment. Ultimately, the goal of this application is to determine if TonEBP is a component of the vesicular protein trafficking machinery, for the secretion of extracellular matrix and signaling molecules, and for the crosstalk between the different compartments of the intervertebral disks necessary for their postnatal maintenance.