CSU researchers use gene therapy to target osteoarthritis

Driving real-world social and economic impact through future treatment in animals and humans
Laurie Goodrich in a teal lab coat and Jaiden Oropallo in a white lab coat are smiling while standing in a laboratory. They are surrounded by various scientific instruments and lab supplies.
Laurie Goodrich and Jaiden Oropallo pose in their lab. The group is working to develop new treatment options for osteoarthritis through gene therapy—the reprogramming of cells—in companion animals.

Researchers at Colorado State University are working to improve the day-to-day lives of people and animals suffering from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness, affecting a person’s ability to move freely. The condition limits movement and activity for more than 500 million people worldwide and is cited as the leading cause of euthanasia in dogs. Laurie Goodrich, professor of orthopedics in the CSU Department of Clinical Sciences, and PhD candidate Jaiden Oropallo, are working to develop new treatment options for osteoarthritis through gene therapy—the reprogramming of cells—in companion animals.

Current osteoarthritis treatments focus primarily on pain relief. Goodrich and Oropallo want to address the fundamental issue behind the disease—inflammation—using protein-based therapeutics. Protein-based therapeutics describes medicines that use genetically engineered versions of naturally occurring human proteins. Goodrich and Oropallo are working to develop and engineer specific proteins to enhance their performance and effectiveness in treatment.

As a translational scientist, Goodrich seeks to develop medical solutions that benefit both animals and people. After perfecting their treatment in the lab and completing various studies with both horses and dogs, the team will move to a larger clinical trial to test the efficacy. Their goal is to develop a startup company around the technology to drive real-world social and economic impact through future treatment in animals and, eventually, humans.

In 2023, Goodrich and Oropallo received funding from the Advanced Industries Proof of Concept Grant Program to advance their research. “This funding has allowed us to really start the project. Before this, we were not able to design as many variants as we wanted, and we weren’t able to test them as efficiently as we wanted, so this funding has helped us lay the groundwork for our preclinical and clinical trials that will be starting in the future,” said Oropallo.

Advanced Industries funds are provided to CSU through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade with the goal of accelerating commercialization of innovations with high potential for creating economic impact in the state of Colorado. Learn more about the grant program at csustrata.org/technology-transfer/ai-poc-grant.