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Cheryl Ackert-Bicknell, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Office: (585) 275-1335

Faculty Appointments



It is currently estimated that half of all Americans over the age of 50 either already have osteoporosis or are at serious risk for the development of this disease. Low bone mass is associated with increased osteoporotic fracture risk and up to 85% of the variance in peak bone mass is heritable. Genome wide association studies (GWAS) in humans have identified a number of loci for bone mineral density (BMD);however, only a small fraction of the variance in BMD can be collectively explained by the identified loci. It has been postulated that BMD is controlled by many small effect size loci, and that much of this missing variance would be captured if these loci could be conclusively mapped. However, bone is not insulated from nor is it without consequence on the rest of an organism's physiology. It is well established that cardiovascular disease (CVD) and osteoporosis share common etiologies. Diagnosis of CVD is associated with increased risk of hip fracture, and low bone mass in women is an independent predictor of CVD. Furthermore, patient behaviors that increase risk for CVD (i.e. lack of exercise, smoking) are also risk factors for development of low bone mass. My research program has two main focuses: 1) determining the genes required for proper osteoblast development and function and 2) elucidating the impact of dietary cholesterol on these genes to impact upon osteoblast development and function.

Osteoblasts are mononuclear cells that differentiate from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). They function to form the protein matrix of the osteoid and to mineralize this matrix to produce healthy bone tissue. Mineralization rate and level by the osteoblast varies significantly among the inbred mouse strains, emphasizing that activity by these cells is genetically regulated. Using a variety of strategies including high-throughput RNAseq, genetic mapping and in-depth phenotyping of transgenic mouse models, I am investigating the genetic underpinnings that control osteoblast function. Low levels of HDL cholesterol and BMD are risk factors for CVD and osteoporosis respectively. It is well understood that dietary fat intake affects serum HDL cholesterol levels in certain genetic contexts, and I have shown that dietary fat can interact with certain genes to influence bone mass. Further, I have determined that genetic loci for these two phenotypes co-map with high frequency and these co-mapping loci may interact with dietary fat intake. I am using mouse models as discovery tools to better define the genetic relationship between serum HDL and BMD, and to determine how dietary fat impacts osteoblast maturation and function in the context of differing genetic backgrounds.



BSc | Canada-University of Guelph, Ontario
Molecular Biology

MSc | Canada-U Western Ontario, London

PhD | University of Maine-Orono
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Young Investigator Award, American Society of Bone and Mineral Research

Chair's Fund Travel Award to Attend the Gordon Research Conference on Insulin like Growth Factors in Physiology and Disease

Journal of Cell Science Traveling Fellowship

Ontario Scholar

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Journal Articles

Rowe DW, Adams DJ, Hong SH, Zhang C, Shin DG, Renata Rydzik C, Chen L, Wu Z, Garland G, Godfrey DA, Sundberg JP, Ackert-Bicknell C. "Screening Gene Knockout Mice for Variation in Bone Mass: Analysis by ?CT and Histomorphometry." Current osteoporosis reports.. 2018 Mar 5; Epub 2018 Mar 05.

Medina-Gomez C, Kemp JP, Trajanoska K, Luan J, Chesi A, Ahluwalia TS, Mook-Kanamori DO, Ham A, Hartwig FP, Evans DS, Joro R, Nedeljkovic I, Zheng HF, Zhu K, Atalay M, Liu CT, Nethander M, Broer L, Porleifsson G, Mullin BH, Handelman SK, Nalls MA, Jessen LE, Heppe DHM, Richards JB, Wang C, Chawes B, Schraut KE, Amin N, Wareham N, Karasik D, Van der Velde N, Ikram MA, Zemel BS, Zhou Y, Carlsson CJ, Liu Y, McGuigan FE, Boer CG, Bønnelykke K, Ralston SH, Robbins JA, Walsh JP, Zillikens MC, Langenberg C, Li-Gao R, Williams FMK, Harris TB, Akesson K, Jackson RD, Sigurdsson G, den Heijer M, van der Eerden BCJ, van de Peppel J, Spector TD, Pennell C, Horta BL, Felix JF, Zhao JH, Wilson SG, de Mutsert R, Bisgaard H, Styrkársdóttir U, Jaddoe VW, Orwoll E, Lakka TA, Scott R, Grant SFA, Lorentzon M, van Duijn CM, Wilson JF, Stefansson K, Psaty BM, Kiel DP, Ohlsson C, Ntzani E, van Wijnen AJ, Forgetta V, Ghanbari M, Logan JG, Williams GR, Bassett JHD, Croucher PI, Evangelou E, Uitterlinden AG, Ackert-Bicknell CL, Tobias JH, Evans DM, Rivadeneira F. "Life-Course Genome-wide Association Study Meta-analysis of Total Body BMD and Assessment of Age-Specific Effects." American journal of human genetics.. 2018 Jan 4; 102(1):88-102.

Medina-Gomez C, Kemp JP, Dimou NL, Kreiner E, Chesi A, Zemel BS, Bønnelykke K, Boer CG, Ahluwalia TS, Bisgaard H, Evangelou E, Heppe DHM, Bonewald LF, Gorski JP, Ghanbari M, Demissie S, Duque G, Maurano MT, Kiel DP, Hsu YH, C J van der Eerden B, Ackert-Bicknell C, Reppe S, Gautvik KM, Raastad T, Karasik D, van de Peppel J, Jaddoe VWV, Uitterlinden AG, Tobias JH, Grant SFA, Bagos PG, Evans DM, Rivadeneira F. "Bivariate genome-wide association meta-analysis of pediatric musculoskeletal traits reveals pleiotropic effects at the SREBF1/TOM1L2 locus." Nature communications.. 2017 Jul 25; 8(1):121. Epub 2017 Jul 25.

Books & Chapters

Chapter Title: Development and Disease of the mouse muscular and Skeletal Systems
Book Title: The Laboratory Mouse
Author List: Sher RB, Cox GA and Ackert-Bicknell C
Published By: Elsevier Ltd2012

Chapter Title: N-Acetyl Cysteine Supplementation of Growing mice: Effects on skeletal size, bone mineral density and serum IGF-I
Book Title: Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis
Author List: Ackert-Bicknell CL, Beamer WG, Rosen CJ
Edited By: Burckhardt P. et al
Published By: Academic Press2004