Mechanical loading and cartilage homeostasis: how to make both ends meet?

For an ongoing collaboration between the Human Movement Biomechanics Research Group (Prof. Ilse Jonkers) and the Laboratory of Tissue Homeostasis and Disease (Prof. Rik Lories) in the Skeletal Biology and Engineering Group at KU Leuven we are looking for an excellent postdoctoral researcher to strengthen our research line on the relation between mechanical loading and the biological response of the articular cartilage.

In this recent research line, we want to evaluate how and to what extent clinically relevant mechanical loading affects cartilage homeostasis, regeneration and degeneration. More specific, we want to investigate the role of mechanical loading in cell- and tissue responses in the joint and its role in cartilage adaptation at the molecular, cell and tissue level in the context of early osteoarthritis. Central in this work will be a unique and innovative multi-axial bioreactor suit, to be installed summer/fall 2018, that will allow us to mimic in vivo loading.

Within the Human Movement Biomechanics research group, we investigate the effect of loading on adaptive processes of the musculoskeletal system and cartilage in particular.
In this research line we use experimental cell-based and molecular techniques in combination with bioreactor experiments, as well as medical imaging ((micro-) MRI and CT) and computational techniques (personalized musculoskeletal modelling and finite element analysis).

Within the Skeletal Biology and Engineering Group, the Tissue Homeostasis and Disease laboratory studies focuses on endogenous tissue responses in the joint with specific attention towards translational questions in chronic arthritis, in particular osteoarthritis. We were the first to demonstrate the key homeostatic role of Wnt signaling in the postnatal joint. The observation that mice in which the Wnt antagonist Frzb has been genetically deleted show increased severity of osteoarthritis pointed the attention of a large research community towards this pathway in particular in osteoarthritis. A recent study on DOT1L in osteoarthritis has identified a novel regulatory mechanism of Wnt signaling in the joint.

- Conduct research on cartilage mechano-biology, more specific the molecular basis of the response to multi-axial loading in healthy and diseased cartilage.
- Assist in further developing this research line and writing of research proposals in this area.
- Supervise master student projects in this research area.
- Contribute to biomechanics teaching or other areas depending on the candidate’s profile
- Administrative and technical support of activities within the research group, department or faculty.

- You have a PhD degree in biomedical sciences, biology, bioengineering, biomedical engineering or equivalent as can be derived from the topic of the PhD research. Candidates that do not hold the doctoral degree at the date of the application closure are encouraged to apply. Candidates with previous bioreactor experience and/or expertise in cartilage biology have an advantage.

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