Understanding the pathogenesis of postmenopausal knee osteoarthritis at the subchondral bone and cartilage interface using MRI and CT imaging

This PhD project will be based at the University of Toronto with a 24 month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Project Description:

This PhD project is focused on understanding how the cartilage and bone within the knee joint interact in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis, over the short and long-term.

It will use clinical imaging techniques to examine these relationships earlier on in the disease process and measure trajectories of change in each of bone and cartilage tissues over time. It will then study the same bone-cartilage relationships in advanced-stage disease patients by using the bone and cartilage specimens removed after total knee replacement surgery. This excised sample will allow the PhD student to conduct indepth analysis into microstructures of the cartilage and bone to seek specific patterns of damage. The project will also link information about fracture risk and the sex hormone estrogen, which declines after menopause, to the bone and cartilage properties that were observed in both imaging and excised specimen analyses.

The PhD student will learn to do programming in Python to conduct automated image analysis, advanced statistical procedures to study unique patterns of change, lab-based imaging and cellular analysis techniques to evaluate micro-structures and damage. The combination of benchside and bedside analyses will compose high quality evidence to support hypotheses related to the way osteoarthritis among postmenopausal women may be related to the loss of estrogen and accompanied deterioration of musculoskeletal tissues.

In addition to receiving an education on lab, clinical, statistical, and analytical skills, the PhD student will be enrolled in a Rehabilitation Sciences program that will teach the student about basic theories and methods of study design, expose them to rehabilitation science investigations, and promote discussion among peers on topics that relate to joint health. They will also be enrolled in the Collaborative Program in Musculoskeletal Sciences at UofT which provide additional courses on basic sciences of bone, muscle and joint biology, seminars on other PhD students’ work in similar fields, and opportunities to collaborate across departments. They will gain further insight and challenges to their PhD project through this additional educational component.

This PhD project forms part of a cluster collaboration between UofT and UofM where the complementary PhD project will study a similar research question, but using experimental methods on mice with and without having their ovaries removed to simulate menopause. This PhD student will share their learned skills, study findings, and future directions with both UofT and UofM teams, to inspire further collaborations that bridge benchside and bedside investigations. It is expected that the entire cluster team will meet on several occasions during this collaborative program, but also at annual international conferences beyond the term of this program.

Supervision Team:

A/Prof Andy Kin On Wong (University of Toronto)

Dr Kathryn StokDr Katie Davey (University of Melbourne)

How to Apply

If you are interested in this opportunity, read the application guidelines before contacting the supervisors.