Since 1985, the Olsen Laboratory has used molecular, genetic and cell biological approaches to identify and characterize mechanisms of skeletal development and disease in humans and mice. The discoveries range from identification of “founding” members of novel families of collagenous proteins with critical functions in skeletal tissues, to identification of mutations in matrix molecules, transcription factors and receptors/signaling components responsible for a number of inherited cartilage and bone diseases in humans and mice. Apart from providing insights into pathological processes in disorders that are individually rare, but quite common as a group, these discoveries have contributed significantly to the understanding of mechanisms of development and postnatal maintenance of cartilage and bone.
Contributing to the success of the work is the fact that the laboratory is simultaneously pursuing genetic and biochemical studies of both skeletal and vascular disorders and processes. This interdisciplinary work environment provides ideal conditions for current studies of the roles of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling in vascular anomalies, bone and cartilage development and in common diseases, such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and ectopic bone formation, and it has led to research the causes of more rare inherited disorders characterized by retarded skeletal growth, progressive loss of joint cartilage and bone, and fibrosis of skin and other organs.