Vianna Martinez Awarded Pilot Grant to Support OA Research

By Jamie Botta

Vianna Martinez, a third-year graduate student in the laboratory of Amy McNulty, PhD, has been awarded a Duke University School of Medicine Office of Biomedical and Graduate Education (OBGE) and Precision Genomics Collaboratory (PGC) Pilot Grant. This $2,000 award will support Martinez’s dissertation research on Osteoarthritis (OA).

OA is a degenerative disease affecting more than 60 million people in the United States and is characterized by a hallmark of cartilage loss. Despite the widespread prevalence of this disease, there are no current therapeutics for prevention or reversal of OA. Aging is a primary risk factor for OA, however age-related mechanisms that may contribute to the progression of OA are not well-defined. Moreover, cartilage in the knee is a mechanically loaded tissue, and therefore it is also necessary to mechanistically understand how aging may impact the response of chondrocytes (the resident cells of cartilage) to mechanical loading, termed “mechano-responsiveness of chondrocytes.”

The goal of Vianna’s thesis work is to investigate the interplay between aging and mechanical loading mechanisms on cartilage homeostasis. This award will fund RNA Sequencing on young vs. old, unloaded and loaded samples in order to accelerate the development of her thesis project.