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Strong Bone Expert To Head Orthopaedics Society

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

J. Edward Puzas, Ph.D., an expert on bones and the diseases that afflict them - including osteoporosis and bone cancer - has been elected president of the Orthopaedic Research Society, a national organization with 1,700 members that focuses its efforts on improving the care of patients with musculoskeletal diseases and injuries. Puzas, the director of Strong Memorial Hospital's Osteoporosis Center, heads one of the world's foremost research groups on osteoporosis, the thinning of bones that affects more than 20 million people in the United States. Puzas and his colleagues are studying the molecular signals that govern osteoporosis, a first step in a bid to slow and perhaps reverse the disease. The process involves cells known as osteoclasts, which break down bone to provide the body with calcium, and osteoblasts, which subsequently fill in those same areas. Osteoporosis happens when either the osteoclasts become too active or the osteoblasts too lax; he has also found that high amounts of lead in the blood may leave people prone to the disease. Puzas is trying to develop ways to manipulate the osteoclasts and osteoblasts to restore the balance and treat or prevent the disease. Such research could also result in more trouble-free hip and knee implants for people who need artificial joints. Bone cancer is another focus of research in Puzas' laboratory. Controlling the spread of cancer is one of the most important ways doctors try to treat patients, since the disease is much more likely to be fatal once it spreads. In cancer of the prostate or breast, for instance, nine times out of 10 the bones are the first target for the cancer cells, which use bones as a launch pad to invade vital organs like the liver, lungs, kidneys and brain. The first step in the process is simple - cancer cells circulating in the blood find a way to attach themselves to a piece of bone, then dig in and stimulate the body's own bone cells to help. Puzas and his colleagues are looking for ways to protect the bone, perhaps by knocking out the ability of cancer cells to stick, so they float right by without the ability to burrow in and spread. A member of the University of Rochester faculty for 21 years, Puzas is the Donald and Mary Clark Professor of Orthopedics at the Medical Center and is part of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, a group of three dozen researchers who focus on diseases like arthritis and bone cancer. He also holds faculty appointments in Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Oncology, and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Puzas earned his doctorate in radiation biology and biophysics from the University in 1976 and has also taught and done research at Yale University, the University of Washington in Seattle, and Oxford University. He has won several awards for his research, including the Kappa Delta Prize for Outstanding Orthopaedic Research and the Kroc Foundation Award for Excellence in Cartilage and Bone Research. Puzas is part of one of the top orthopedics research groups in the nation; he and his colleagues at the University rank second nationally in the amount of funding attracted from the National Institutes of Health. Besides osteoporosis and bone cancer, the group focuses on the basic science of arthritis and on improving implant surgery.

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