CEM faculty and graduate students conduct research spanning the fields of biology, infectious disease, anthropology, parasitology, genetics, psychology, primatoloby, public health and beyond. These vastly different perspectives are held together by one common thread: contributions to the field of evolutionary medicine.
According to the WHO, the degenerative joint disease of osteoarthritis (OA) is present in 9.6% of men and 18.0% of women ages 60 or older world-wide. Of those affected, 80% have movement limitations and 25% are unable to perform major daily activities of life. The CDC further notes that knee OA is especially prevalent in the U.S. and results in over $28.5 billion of hospital expenditures. Thus, it is important to understand the causes of OA. Genetic and environmental factors have some effect [1-6], but epigenetic factors such as DNA methylation are now thought to play a more influential role [7-13]. While this has been heavily studied in model organisms, such as mice and guinea pigs, few efforts have taken an evolutionary perspective [14-15]. The proposed project will address this issue by assessing the relationship between DNA methylation patterns and knee OA development in a baboon primate model (Papio anubis) and comparing these findings to previously published data for humans [9-10,16-21]. Specifically, this research will identify genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in skeletal tissues from baboon femora and evaluate OA related variation intra-specifically and between baboons and humans.