University of Delaware graduate student Yilu Zhou has been selected to receive the ASBMR Young Investigator Award.

Research excellence

UD graduate student to receive ASBMR Young Investigator Award

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3:44 p.m., April 11, 2014--Yilu Zhou understands that sitting on the sidelines is the worst kind of punishment for a runner.

“I know some marathon runners suffer from severe osteoarthritis and have had to give up running. As a marathon lover myself, I don’t want it happen to me,” said Zhou, a University of Delaware doctoral student who is investigating new treatments for post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). 

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Many athletes experience traumatic joint injuries throughout their careers. Although surgery can treat and correct these injuries, many patients eventually develop PTOA, a degenerative joint disease that affects over 5 million Americans and can lead to complete loss of joint function. 

Zhou is studying how zoledronic acid (ZA) protects cartilage from traumatic-damage induced degeneration.

A Food and Drug Administration-approved drug, ZA is a biophosphonate used to prevent skeletal fractures and bone loss in patients with cancer and osteoporosis. Zhou’s research has also shown that the drug can inhibit cartilage degeneration. 

“Our experiments showed that treatment with ZA following trauma-induced damage enhances the biomechanical properties and biochemical content of tissue, preventing further deterioration of the cartilage,” Zhou explained.

According to his thesis adviser X. Lucas Lu, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Zhou’s research findings “have attracted interest from many scientists and clinical investigators.”

Zhou will present his research findings to an international audience of scientists and clinical investigators at the Bone Research Society’s annual meeting in Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, this June.

“Once we understand how ZA works, we can identify other drugs that can target the same pathway with minimum side effects on the body, since there is concern that ZA could disrupt the natural metabolism of healthy bones in younger patients,” explained Zhou, who was selected for a Young Investigator Award by the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

Photos by Ambre Alexander Payne

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