More people visit their doctor each year for a musculoskeletal problem than for any other reason. Bone and joint diseases, such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, are common diseases and huge economic and social burdens to our society. The development and progression of these diseases are influenced by genetic, environmental and biomechanical factors.
Jennifer Westendorf, Ph.D., is interested in the molecular and epigenetic basis for skeletal formation, bone and cartilage regeneration, as well as the growth of primary and metastatic bone tumors.
Dr. Westendorf has numerous leadership roles within and outside of Mayo Clinic. She is the vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a member of several Mayo Clinic research subcommittees. She has served as chairperson of several National Institutes of Health review panels and just completed a term on the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) Council. She is currently a member of the board of directors for the Orthopaedic Research Society and serves on the editorial boards of several journals.
Dr. Westendorf is proud of the talented young investigators and students that work in the laboratory and make exciting discoveries. Her team's research accomplishments have been recognized with several national awards, including the Fuller Albright Award, two John Haddad Awards and the Harold M. Frost Award, all from the ASBMR.
Current projects in Dr. Westendorf's lab focus on:
- The role of histone deacetylases (Hdacs) in bone and cartilage formation
- The effects of Hdac inhibitors on skeletal development and regeneration, and on tumor burden in the skeleton
- Akt pathway regulation in cartilage biology and osteoarthritis progression
- Epigenetic changes in osteoarthritis
- Novel genetic and epigenetic mutations that cause craniosynostosis (excessive skull bone formation in babies and young children)
- The role of Runx family proteins in osteosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma and bone disease caused by metastatic cancers, including breast and prostate cancer
- Wnt pathways in bone remodeling and repair
Significance to patient care
The research of Dr. Westendorf and her team is revealing novel insights into numerous bone diseases and focuses on validating new molecules as treatment targets. Their goal is to increase knowledge that leads to the rational design of novel therapeutics for musculoskeletal diseases, including osteoporosis, craniosynostosis, diseases of heterotopic bone, non-union fractures, osteosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma family of tumors, and bone disease caused by metastatic cancers.