Dr. Janna M. Andronowski
Assistant Professor, Clinical Anatomy
Faculty of Medicine
Consulting Forensic Anthropologist, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, NL
The Andronowski Lab
A current focus of the lab is to further understandings of the dynamic relationship between human bone tissue and physiological and nutritional stressors (e.g., hormones, infection, substance abuse) known to affect the bone remodeling process. The lab also specializes in forensic anthropological applications of bone histology and 3D imaging as tools in the process of human identification.
Dr. Andronowski was awarded a 2021 ARC-NL Research Grant for her project entitled, Age- and Sex-Related Changes in Bone’s Cellular Network: Impacts on Aging Bone Health.
ARC-NL: What piqued your interest in this area of research?
Bone is a living record. It is a dynamic tissue that is constantly changing over a person’s life in response to injury, hormones, diet, and lifestyle factors (e.g., physical activity level, medication regimens). And as a bone biologist and forensic anthropologist, I can retrieve a lot of information from bone – even a small fragment. Thus, my work involves using high-resolution imaging methods to visualize and evaluate the microstructure of bone. A significant emphasis of my research program is the study of cortical bone remodeling through the imaging of cortical porosity to help us better understand age-related changes, disease processes, and bone adaptation.
ARC-NL: Can you please provide a brief synopsis of your specific project?
Osteoporosis, a disease characterized by loss of bone quality and quantity, represents a substantial and growing global health challenge. In Canada, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. In order to combat this global health challenge, it is critical that we seek a fuller understanding of how bones age. To advance this goal, my ARC-NL funded research project aims to explore changes in the cellular-level organization of bone across the lifespan with a specific focus on sex differences which may underpin the differential impact of bone disease on women and men.
In recent years there has been an increased recognition of the importance of osteocytes (cells embedded within the bone matrix) as transducers of mechanical stimuli – initiating and regulating ongoing dynamic turnover known as
bone remodeling. Ultimately, it is an imbalance in remodeling that leads to bone loss and, therefore, understanding osteocyte function is critical. Collectively, this system is known as the Lacunar-Canalicular Network (LCN). Research in my lab has previously discovered that LCN connectivity in women declines with age – a pattern which was not significant in men. The current project aims to 1) build upon our findings at the
lacunar level, and 2) further extend our analysis at the
canalicular level. A shift away from viewing osteoporosis as a structural deficit, to thinking of it as a consequence of a functional deficit, will open the door to new avenues of prevention and treatment for older adults.
ARC-NL: How did getting the support of the ARC-NL Research Grant assist you with your project?
The research grant from ARC-NL provides the critical foundation needed to implement a novel longitudinal cortical bone imaging research program with the goal of targeting improved prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
ARC-NL: How do you feel your research will benefit the aging population of Newfoundland and Labrador? Canada?
Osteoporosis afflicts millions of Canadians and costs billions, with an aging population poised to expand its impact further. Newfoundland and Labrador specifically has an aging population and one of the highest populations of older adults in Canada. Thus, evaluating age- and sex-related differences in bone’s cellular network and the insight this will provide promises to enhance our understanding of the factors underpinning osteoporosis and bone fragility and promote the bone health of older adults.
Canadians will benefit in numerous ways including the creation of fundamental scientific knowledge, the application of this knowledge to improve public policy and health care applications and, the training of the next generation of musculoskeletal researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
ARC-NL: Is there any past experience that you feel is pertinent to your success today?
Though I am an early career researcher, my work has already taken me around the world and offered the opportunity to work with many diverse groups and agencies. In the pursuit of an academic career, I have lived in five provinces (ON, AB, BC, SK, and NL), three states (NY, TN, and OH), and spent a summer doing research in the UK (Portsmouth). I have over 10 years of experience working in forensic science-based laboratories and am fortunate to have trained in some of the most respected forensic anthropological facilities in North America - the Forensic Anthropology Unit at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City, the Forensic Anthropology Center and Anthropology Research Facility at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), and Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Forensic Research.
Over the years I have further taught a variety of courses and provided public outreach lectures and hands-on experience in skeletal biology, human anatomy, and forensic anthropology to diverse audiences. These included law enforcement, undergraduate and graduate students, death investigators, high school students, museum goers, and forensic scientists. I am most passionate about science communication, outreach, and encouraging women in STEM fields to pursue their academic goals here in Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond.