ECSU professor's $100,000 grant covers cost of osteoporosis research

Kesha Williams
June 28, 2011

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Dr. Hirendranath Banerjee, associate professor of biology at Elizabeth City State University, is the recipient of a $100,00 grant from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund-U.S. Department of Energy partnership. The grant will allow him and assistants to conduct research on osteoporosis, a disease that afflicts millions of Americans.

Banerjee said the research will involve working on a particular protein, osteoprotegerin, which blocks osteoclast cells that eat away bony material in osteoporosis patients.

"Our ultimate goal in this project is to solve the structure of osteoprotegerin, which we are confident will lead to a cure of osteoporosis. That is an ambitious statement, and finding a cure will involve many researchers and several tests," Banerjee said.

Osteoporosis is a common disease of the bones, which leaves bones weak and brittle. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million Americans have the disease and 34 million are at risk. It largely affects women over 50. Additionally, one in four men are affected by osteoporosis. Astronauts who have undergone lengthy journeys in space also are susceptible. Resulting fractures and broken bones cost Americans more than $20 billion each year.

"We are confident that the undergraduates who are working on this research project will gain valuable experience in the search for a cure to a disease that affects so many people," Banerjee said. "Students can gain great insight while participating in research projects that center around a topic so commonly discussed in the media."

The research effort involves researchers at the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.