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Joint regeneration of the future? Undergraduate researcher investigates

Loyola press release - April 3, 2013

For Loyola University New Orleans undergraduate student researcher Jeffrey Coote, coaxing the human body to grow its own replacement joints isn’t a far off possibility mentioned only in science fiction novels. In fact, Coote and Loyola biology professor Rosalie Anderson, Ph.D., were among the first to regenerate chicken embryo limb joints in the lab. Coote will present his research focusing on the cells and proteins responsible for the phenomenon during Loyola’s Biology Undergraduate Research Symposium Friday, April 5. The symposium features more than a dozen undergraduate students presenting ground-breaking research.

“The most exciting part about working on this project is the possibility of eventually finding a way to apply this research to human medicine,” Coote, a senior biology major, said. “Degenerative joint diseases are common throughout the world and are difficult to prevent as people age, so the idea of developing a technique or model to help treat these diseases is pretty remarkable.”

Chickens, unlike salamanders, typically do not regenerate amputated limbs and body parts, but Anderson, Coote and others in the lab are discovering certain conditions where that’s possible. Once the elbow joint is removed from a chicken embryo, they found that cells in the embryo will actually migrate to the hole to form a new one. Understanding the process could unlock clues for scientists looking to coax the human body into making new joints.

To delve deeper into what makes the regeneration possible, Coote studied where the cells that participate in chicken embryo joint regeneration originate. Interestingly, Coote found that cells actually move in a different way—a way they don’t typically move during normal limb formation. Coote also studied the role of two proteins in regeneration. The proteins play a role in wound healing and embryonic development, among other things, according to Coote.

Coote will highlight those findings at the Biology Undergraduate Research Symposium scheduled from 12:30 to 5 p.m. in Nunemaker Auditorium located on the third floor of Monroe Hall on Loyola’s main campus. His presentation on the “Characterization of Cell Migration and Fgf-8 and -10 Expression During the Early Events of Joint Regeneration” is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The symposium is followed by a crawfish social from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in Dixon Court at the St. Charles Ave. entrance of the Communications/Music Complex.

The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and represents a new and novel approach to studying joint regeneration and development by using chicken embryos as the model and focusing on larger joints that are directly applicable to elbow, hip and knee joints.

Contact Mikel Pak, associate director of public affairs, at 504-861-5448 for more information or to schedule an interview.