Audrey  McAlinden, PhD

Audrey McAlinden, PhD


Department of Orthopaedic Surgery (Primary),
Department of Cell Biology & Physiology,
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Washington University

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McAlinden Lab Research Program

The McAlinden Lab studies molecular regulation of skeletal (cartilage and bone) development and homeostasis with long-term goals to discover novel therapeutic targets to treat musculoskeletal conditions including osteoarthritis (OA), heterotopic ossification (HO) and bone fracture.

We are currently focused on understanding how specific non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs) control skeletal cell differentiation and we are developing RNA nanotherapeutic targeting strategies to modulate miRNA function in vivo in pre-clinical mouse models of OA, HO and bone fracture.

Among our recent published and unpublished studies, we have shown: 1) enhanced bone fracture healing via lentiviral-mediated miRNA delivery and 2) suppression of abnormal bone formation (heterotopic ossification) in tendon tissue via peptide-based nanoparticle-miRNA delivery. We are also pursuing miRNA delivery approaches with the goal of suppressing cartilage degradation in a mouse model of trauma-induced OA. We also apply next generation RNA-sequencing approaches to identify new miRNA-mediated mechanisms as a means to identify novel therapeutic targets.

The McAlinden Lab utilizes a number of molecular and cellular in vitro approaches to study skeletal/progenitor cell differentiation, cell metabolism, the cytoskeleton of the cell, cell/tissue inflammation and more. As well as established pre-clinical mouse models, we also use genetically modified mouse models (constitutive/inducible gene knock-out or knock-in models), some of which are unique to the McAlinden Lab. In addition to molecular/cellular techniques, our interests in nanoparticles for RNA delivery and analyzing bone mechanical properties enhances the translational and engineering-aspects of our research. We would like to expand our research endeavors to apply spatial transcriptomics approaches to assess our in vivo therapies and develop organ-on-a-chip approaches to model disease.

For more general information, click here.

Current Collaborators
Matthew Silva, WUSTL (bone fracture; bone mechanics)
Hua Pan, WUSTL (peptide-based nanoparticles)
Ben Levi, UTSW (heterotopic ossification).
Hua Shen, WUSTL (exosomes, tendon repair)
Harrison Gabel, WUSTL (Dnmt3a mutations)
Silvia Jansen, WUSTL (actin cytoskeleton)
Young Ah-Goo, WUSTL (proteomics)
Regis O’Keefe, WUSTL (Dnmt3b function in cartilage)

About Dr. McAlinden
Audrey McAlinden, PhD, is a tenured Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis (WUSTL). Her doctoral training at the University of London (Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology) involved characterization of human meniscus tissue. She first joined WUSTL Orthopaedics in 1999 as a postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Linda Sandell. Here, she studied alternative splicing regulation of the type II collagen gene (COL2A1) in cartilage and generated a unique mouse model to study this process in vivo. Her current research program is focused on epigenetic regulation in skeletal and connective tissues with a specific interest in non-coding microRNAs. Major goals of current NIH-funded research are to identify microRNA targets to treat skeletal conditions including bone fractures, heterotopic ossification, and osteoarthritis. She has regularly served as a grant reviewer for NIH, DOD and other Institutes, and is currently serving a 4-year term (2023-2027) on the Skeletal Biology Development and Disease (SBDD) Study Section of NIH/NIAMS. She is a Handling Editor of the journal Bone, and is also on the Editorial Review Board for a number of other journals (Journal of Orthopaedic Research, Matrix Biology, Osteoarthritis & Cartilage). Among a string of Committee roles, Audrey is currently the Treasurer (2022-2025), Finance Committee Chair, Executive Committee Member and Board of Directors Member of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS). She was recently elected to co-Chair the 2027 Cartilage Biology & Pathology Gordon Research Conference. She is the 2022 recipient of the ORS Women’s Leadership Forum Award and the Lee T. Ford Award for Academic Achievement from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at WUSTL. Audrey was also inducted as a Fellow of International Orthopaedic Research (FIOR) at the 2022 International Combined ORS Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Aside from research, Audrey was once a keen tennis player but now (to her dismay) is experimenting more with pickleball. She enjoys hiking and gardening and is known to engage in mixology practices. She is a proud aunt of two lovely red-headed nieces in Scotland. She treasures time with close friends, and, above all, she loves her cats.

We have a number of cool projects crying out for a motivated, curious researcher. Contact us!
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