Oklahoma State University
College of Human Environmental Sciences
Graduate Student Receives Funding to Study Bone Health
Childhood Obesity Could Impact Bone Quality

The College of Human Sciences has announced one of its graduate students, Beth Rendina, PhD student in nutritional sciences, has received a grant of nearly  $68,000 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the USDA.  Rendina, who has been mentored by Brenda Smith, PhD, will be conducting research on the role of autophagy in bone metabolism.

The study will look at the links between childhood obesity and early bone health.  In the U.S. today, childhood obesity affects approximately 20% of all children between the ages of 6-19 years.  Chronic diseases, which were once primarily concerns for adults, are becoming significant health problems in obese children.  Childhood is a critical time for bone mass accrual, and diminished skeletal quality can lead to fractures in childhood as well as increasing the risk for early-onset osteoporosis.

Recent evidence reveals that obesity is associated the deterioration of bone tissue and compromised bone strength in these children; however, cellular processes such as autophagy may also play a critical role. Autophagy is regulated in part by insulin signaling as well as energy availability, and it leads to organelle degradation and ultimately, cellular death. 

Due to the impaired insulin sensitivity and altered glucose availability with childhood obesity, autophagy is likely to have a profound impact on the cells that regulate bone metabolism. Consequently, these alterations in bone metabolism can lead to a skeleton that is more prone to fracture. 

The purpose of this project is to determine the role of the autophagic pathway in bone cells due to impaired insulin signaling and glucose availability.