Research in Focus
Dr. Nicola Partridge Outlines Her Plans to Advance NYUCD's Bone Research Mission

"Dr. Nicola Partridge, center, surrounded by bone research faculty, clockwise, from top: Dr. John Evans Dr. Racquel Z. LeGeros Dr. Timothy Bromage Dr. Cristina Teixeira (far right) Dr. Seiichi Yamano Dr. Mani Alikhani Not shown: Dr. Amr Moursi Dr. John Ricci Dr. Paulo Coelho Dr. Zoya Kurago "

NYUCD bone researchers' interests range from taking a retrospective look at the microanatomy of ancestral human "Lucy" to engineering artificial bone cells for futuristic prosthetic devices.

Ten faculty members from six academic departments are involved in various bone research initiatives at NYUCD, and it's the goal of the new chair of the Department of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology, Dr. Nicola C. Partridge, to motivate them to work collaboratively on behalf of common goals.

"When it comes to conducting bone research, we have a tremendous pool of complementary skills available to us at NYUCD," says Dr. Partridge, who joined the College in September from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, where she had served as Professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

"At NYUCD, we have basic scientists who can contribute to our understanding of the fundamentals of bone formation, function, and structure; researchers experienced in using imaging technologies such as environmental scanning electron microscopy, three-dimensional light microscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to document changes in bone; scientists who replace damaged or missing bone with biomaterials and biomimetics; and clinicians who can work with basic scientists, imaging experts, and biomaterials designers to develop and test new treatment strategies for bone disorders."

"My goal," says Dr. Partridge, "is to motivate the faculty to identify and implement those research initiatives that have the greatest potential for multidisciplinary collaboration."

To that end, Dr. Partridge will facilitate a series of meetings at which faculty members involved in bone research will present their work and explore potential alliances. They include Dr. Racquel Z. LeGeros, Linkow Professor of Implant Dentistry and Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Biomaterials & Biomimetics; Dr. Cristina Teixeira, Assistant Professor of Orthodontics; Dr. John Evans, Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology; Dr. Amr M. Moursi, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Mani Alikhani, Assistant Professor of Orthodontics; Dr. Timothy Bromage, Adjunct Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology and of Biomaterials & Biomimetics; Dr. John Ricci, Associate Professor of Biomaterials & Biomimetics; Dr. Paulo Coelho, Assistant Professor of Biomaterials & Biomimetics; Dr. Zoya Kurago, Assistant Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology & Medicine; and Dr. Seiichi Yamano, Assistant Professor of Prosthodontics.

Dr. Partridge has also invited Dr. Bruce Cronstein, the Esserman Professor of Medicine and Professor of Pathology and Pharmacology at the NYU School of Medicine, and Dr. Thorsten Kirsch, Director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Cell Biology, and Pharmacology at the NYU School of Medicine, to join the meetings and explore collaborations with NYUCD.

"By encouraging collaborative research," Dr. Partridge says, "I believe we can explore new and exciting initiatives, such as the use of bone marrow stem cells to spur bone growth, which could have implications for the treatment of such disorders as cleft lip and palate."

Dr. Partridge will recruit four new junior researchers to assist faculty members on collaborative projects and to work with her on studies focusing on the action of parathyroid hormone in bone metabolism. Parathyroid hormone acts on osteoblasts, or bone-forming cells, to produce signals that activate osteoclasts, or bone-resorbing cells.

Such work is aimed at developing improvements for osteoporosis therapies.

Dr. Partridge is examining why recombinant parathyroid hormone injections for the treatment of osteoporosis cause bone to form at an exceptionally rapid rate. She recently received a $1.5 million grant from the NIH to support her work in that area. See related story.

In a study that she conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Dr. Partridge determined that parathyroid hormone injections in rats led to the expression of a protein that mobilizes white blood cells to fight acute and chronic inflammation. Dr. Partridge plans to continue to examine the connection between the expression of this protein and the rapid formation of bone, and is applying to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the NIH for funding to enable her to continue the study at NYUCD. Her research could help lead to the development of new treatments for people with osteoporosis.

Dr. Partridge is also awaiting renewal of NIDDK funding for a study of the process by which parathyroid hormone leads to the expression of an enzyme that breaks down collagen. Dr. Partridge hypothesizes that cancer drug use may increase this enzyme's expression and may thus inadvertently set off bone breakdown—a hypothesis she plans to investigate in vivo in the next phase of her study.