Prof. Ari Elson

Prof. Ari Elson

Molecular Genetics
Bone homeostasis in health and disease
Research Focus
We study how osteoclasts, the only cells in our body that can degrade bone, are formed and how they function, both in health and in disease

The material that makes up the bones in our bodies is constantly being produced by osteoblasts and being degraded by osteoclasts (OCLs), the only cells in our bodies that can fulfill this function. Regulating OCL activity is vital. For example, excess OCL activity causes bone loss in, for example, osteoporosis and cancer, while loss of OCL activity causes the lethal genetic disease osteopetrosis. 

Osteoclasts are fascinating cells: they are formed by fusion of precursor cells and are therefore extremely large, and they specialize is attaching tightly to bone and secreting onto it a mixture of proton and proteases that degrades the bone matrix. OCLs therefore touch upon basic questions in cell biology such as cell differentiation, cell fusion, intracellular trafficking, cellular signaling, protein structure/function, and others.

Our goal is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that drive and regulate the formation and function of OCLs in the context of health and in diseases. We aim to advance the basic knowledge of OCLs and bone biology, as well as to identify new targets, pathways, and strategies to treat bone disease. 

Our studies encompass the molecular, cellular, and whole-animal level and include a wide range of approaches ranging from creation and analysis of transgenic and knockout mice, down to single-cell and molecular studies.