Dr. Florent Elefteriou, associate professor of molecular and human genetics and orthopedic surgery and associate director of the Center for Skeletal Medicine and Biology at Baylor College of Medicine, has been awarded the 2016 Fuller Albright Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. The award recognizes scientific accomplishment in the bone and mineral field by a member of the society under age 45. Elefteriou received the award at the Society’s annual conference in Atlanta this September.
Elefteriou’s research focuses on the physiology of the skeleton in health and disease. His work led to the discovery of the role of the autonomic nervous system in the regulation of bone remodeling, which is the process by which the skeleton keeps its density and mechanical properties in adult life. Elefteriou’s research also uncovered the deleterious effect of chronic stress in breast cancer bone metastasis.
Another major focus of his research is on understanding the causes of skeletal issues related to neurofibromatosis type 1, a genetic condition mostly known for tumors in the nervous system. Three to 4 percent of children with neurofibromatosis type 1 develop a condition in which their tibia, or shinbone, is prone to fracture and difficult to heal, leading to multiple surgeries and in the worst case, amputation.
Elefteriou and colleagues are working to recreate this condition in mouse models to understand the biology of the disease and identify molecular targets that could be used to prevent, treat and predict the disease.
“We discovered a drug two years ago that we could repurpose to improve the quality of these bones and prevent fracture and the morbidity associated with their non-union, but not all children with NF1 develop these tibial abnormalities, so we now need to find ways to predict which children are progressing toward tibial defects so that we can preventatively include them in a clinical trial and eventually treat them,” said Elefteriou.
He and his team also are working to identify other drugs that promote healing if the fracture happens, since bone grafts, stabilization of the limb and off-label use of bone morphogenetic protein 2, or BMP2, a protein that induces the formation of bone and cartilage.
“We still have a lot of work to do to understand the cellular and molecular origin of these skeletal defects and to translate these findings to the clinic, but we’ve made significant progress over the last few years,” he said.
“This award reflects the talent and work of many trainees and collaborators,” said Elefteriou.