Xu's research into osteoarthritis leads to NIH grant

Roby Hill
September 07, 2023
Graduate student Jen Xu

Jen Xu, an M.D./Ph.D. student at the Medical University of South Carolina, has landed a prestigious TL1 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

A TL1 grant from the NIH is a training grant designed to advance the careers of promising new researchers, specifically pre-doctoral trainees who are interested in pursuing research careers in multi-disciplinary clinical and translational science.

Xu's research is in osteoarthritis (OA), a debilitating disease that affects 32.5 million U.S. adults. Their lab is identifying novel targets that could potentially be inhibited by small molecules to prevent the progression of OA. The results from their preliminary studies as well as prior research show that several complement factors are secreted in higher amounts in OA, especially complement C3. They also found the transcription factor Signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) is involved in increasing C3 expression levels. These hyper-secreted complement factors could be contributing to the degradation of cartilage.

The central hypothesis of their funded proposal is that inhibition of over expressed C3 using small molecule agents against STAT1 will modulate complement pathways to prevent progression and treat osteoarthritis.

The Harvard graduate was drawn to drug discovery research because it bridged her passion for chemistry, biology, and translational research. After completing her studies, she plans to work as a physician scientist splitting her time in clinic and the lab equally.