Melissa Kacena, PhD, the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Lilian Plotkin, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Physiology, were each named among the recipients of ASBMR Esteemed Awards – the society’s most prestigious recognitions.
Kacena and Plotkin were formally presented the honors in October during the group’s annual meeting in Vancouver.
Kacena was given the Stephen M. Krane Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in basic, translational, or clinical research in inflammation and/or skeletal matrix biology, according to the ASBMR website. The award is named for a founding member of the ASBMR: Krane, MD, was a leader in the field of rheumatology, matrix biology and bone and mineral metabolism, and was as dedicated mentor, teacher and clinician-scientist.
Kacena has mentored more than 130 students, many of whom have gone on to pursue careers in medicine, academia, and research. She thanked them for their diligent work in her lab and their dedication to improving orthopaedic patient outcomes.
Plotkin was given the Paula Stern Achievement Award, an award named for the first female president of ASBMR. This honor recognizes a woman in the bone-research field who has made significant scientific achievements while promoting the professional development of other women.
Plotkin said she felt particularly proud to receive this award. She strives to empower young female scientists and help them navigate any struggles that come with of being a woman in the field – many of which she faced herself early in her career.
The Esteemed Awards are an important ASBMR tradition. About a dozen honors are given annual, each recognizing a researcher for different qualities. More than 50 nominations were received in 2023, according to the organization’s website; Kacena and Plotkin were nominated by colleagues.
Although IU School of Medicine researchers have received Esteemed Awards before, this is the first time two IU faculty members have been recognized in the same year. Kacena said that illustrates the great influence IU School of Medicine and its researchers have on the musculoskeletal research field.
“I think we have one of the best programs in the world,” she said. “To have two of the 11 honorees speaks volumes about the great research we’re doing here.”
The Kacena Lab explores the interaction of the bone and hematopoietic systems, thereby potentially improving the treatment of metabolic bone disease, hematopoietic disorders and fracture healing. To achieve this goal, the lab focuses on the role of megakaryocytes, megakaryocyte growth factors and their receptors in bone homeostasis; osteoblasts and the hematopoietic stem cell niche; regulators of osteosarcoma tumor growth; translational/clinical studies examining the genetic regulation of skeletal homeostasis; the molecular mechanisms underlying bone repair and fracture healing.
The Plotkin Lab focuses on the role of connexins in the transduction of signals induced by hormonal, pharmacotherapeutic and mechanical stimuli in osteoblasts and osteocytes. For this, the laboratory utilizes in vitro techniques including tissue culture, analysis of protein expression by Western blotting and of gene expression by real time PCR. In addition, ex vivo cultures of bone cells isolated from mice treated with pharmacologic and hormonal agents, and from genetically modified mice are performed. Lastly, genetically modified mice have been generated and their bone phenotype is characterized using in vivo and ex vivo imaging, gene expression techniques and histomorphometric analysis.