Dr Deborah Mason
Name: Deborah Mason
Institution: Cardiff University and Arthritis Research UK Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre
Theme or Role: High level Evidence Theme Leader
I am a molecular and cell biologist in the field of musculoskeletal diseases. After my BSc in Zoology and Genetics and PhD in Evolutionary Genetics, I preformed an early RNA fingerprinting experiment to discover mechanically-regulated genes in osteocytes in vivo. This led to the discovery of glutamate as a mechanically regulated signal in bone, starting a long term research interest in mechanically-regulated signalling pathways. I am Co Principal Investigator and Preclinical Research Program Lead in the Arthritis Research UK Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre at Cardiff, where my research programme uses a range of cell, explant, animal and human models to determine how altered joint biomechanics influences biological signals. I have secured over £17M of research funding for 34 projects encompassing biosciences, engineering and orthopaedics. My goals include testing new drugs in clinical trials for the prevention of post-traumatic osteoarthritis, devising biomarker assays for early osteoarthritis, and developing our in vitro models for drug screening and biomarker selection. My overall ambition is to improve understanding of the biological mechanisms that link mechanical loading, inflammation and joint destruction in arthritis, and exploit this knowledge for patient benefit.
Vision for the OATech+ Network: To facilitate high impact, interdisciplinary research to advance understanding of osteoarthritis disease mechanisms, and develop tools and processes that validate safe and effective treatments for osteoarthritis.
Name: Dr Deborah Mason
Institution: Cardiff University
Theme or Role: High Level Evidence
After my BSc in Zoology and Genetics (1986) and my PhD in Evolutionary Genetics (1991) in Cardiff, I worked briefly in Medical Genetics at the University Hospital of Wales before moving to Bristol University. My research in Bristol revealed osteocyte gene expression in vivo and implicated glutamatergic signalling in mechanically-induced bone formation. Since my appointment as Lecturer in Cardiff University in 1996 (Senior Lecturer in 2009, Reader in 2012), I have investigated the role of glutamate transporters in bone, revealed a pathological role for glutamate in arthritis, and identified new pathways of cytokine- and mechanically- induced cartilage degradation involving PKR, ceramide and the cytoskeleton. I have secured over £12M of research funding for 30 projects. I co-ordinated Cardiff’s bid for the Arthritis Research UK-funded Centre of Excellence in Biomechanics and Bioengineering, where I act as a manager, and as the Biomechanics, Inflammation and Pain Team Leader. I have served on the Bone Research Society and the British Orthopaedic Research Committees. I have supervised 11 PhD/MD students and teach undergraduate students, co-ordinating the Molecular Biology Degree Scheme in Cardiff and acting as final year tutor for all Biomolecular Degree Schemes. I regularly contribute to public engagement activities with school children, patients and fundraisers.
My research elucidates new signalling mechanisms that regulate bone and cartilage turnover, to provide therapeutic and diagnostic targets for osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. This has led to the discovery of functional glutamatergic signalling in bone and synovium, and revealed new pathways that mediate cytokine- and mechanically- induced cartilage degradation. Modulation of glutamatergic signalling to enhance bone formation and inhibit pathological changes in arthritis, and delineating the role of PKR in arthritis, are current research priorities.