Vicki Rosen , PhD, Department Head and Professor of Developmental Biology
Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), members of the TGFβ gene superfamily, were first identified as potential bone-repair agents. We now know that, along with the bone inductive activity that gave BMPs their name, they are involved in the development of nearly all vertebrate organ systems and tissues, where they play a central role by affecting cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. The activity of these locally acting factors is tightly controlled, and increasing or decreasing BMP signaling can have significant physiological effects throughout the lifetime of an organism. Using molecular, cellular, and genetic approaches in frogs, chicks, and mice, work in our laboratory is currently focused on three areas of research:
1. What role do individual BMPs play in the formation and maintenance of musculoskeletal tissues and structures? To answer this question, we developed transgenic mice in which we can control the temporal and spatial expression of BMPs and are using these mice to distinguish between the requirement for BMP activity and the need for specific BMPs.
2. How is BMP signaling regulated by extracellular matrix components found in musculoskeletal tissues? BMP-3, the major BMP component of bone matrix, antagonizes the osteogenic activity of other BMPs. This observation identifies a new way to modulate BMP signaling, and suggests that bone matrix may play an important role in the control of bone mass.
3. Can an understanding of the roles of BMPs during embryogenesis be used to generate novel tissue-repair strategies? Recombinant human BMP-2 is currently used during orthopedic surgery as a replacement for bone grafts. Might other BMPs have analogous properties for repair of other musculoskeletal tissues?
Laura W. Gamer
Linda Ross Phone 617-432-5806