Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Barbara Boyan

Second Advisor

Zvi Schwartz

Third Advisor

John Ryan

Fourth Advisor

Christopher Lemmon

Fifth Advisor

Hu Yang


Over 32.5 million adults in the United States and 300 million worldwide have osteoarthritis (OA). To date, there are no disease-modifying therapeutics, only strategies to slow OA progression through pain management, regenerative medicine approaches, and ultimately joint replacement.

On a microscale, a phenotypic shift of the normally quiescent articular chondrocytes leads to aberrant expression of pro-inflammatory and catabolic pathways, which are hypothesized to contribute to OA progression. Of note, interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and WNT/β-catenin signaling are key players disrupting cartilage homeostasis and driving inflammatory pathway activation. These pathways become dysregulated and form a positive feedback loop, increasing their own production and that of other inflammatory cytokines such as prostaglandin E2; matrix-degrading proteases, including a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs-4 and 5 and matrix metalloproteinase 1, 3 and 13. The ability to interrupt these pathways could provide treatment options for OA. The central hypothesis of this thesis was that IL-1β, TNF-α, and WNT/β-catenin signaling drive OA progression.

Previous research indicated that 24R,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 prevents IL-1β-stimulated signaling. Specific aim 1 determined whether treatment with 24R,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 prevents OA progression in vivo. Specific aim 2 determined if microRNA-122 and microRNA-451 controlled OA progression in vitro and how these microRNAs interact with the IL-1β, TNF-α, and WNT/β-catenin signaling pathways. Specific aim 3 investigated treating OA in vivo with microRNA-122 or a microRNA-451 inhibitor.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Wednesday, June 24, 2026