Wang lands NSF grant

Collaborative rhesus monkey study focuses on age-related conditions
November 12th, 2019
Dr. Qian Wang studies rhesus monkeys.

Dr. Qian Wang observes rhesus monkeys in May 2016 in Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico.

Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s Dr. Qian Wang, associate professor in biomedical sciences, and collaborators have received a $790,000 National Science Foundation grant for a study on a colony of rhesus monkeys and the health effects on aging, bone development and pathologies.

“A Skeletal Study to Determine Environmental and Familial Effects on Health and Life Expectancy of Rhesus Monkeys from Cayo Santiago” will take an in-depth look at how eight generations of the species in Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico, weathered genetics and the environment. Rhesus skeletons closely match humans, including their oral pathology, osteopathology and arthropathy, Wang says. Their skeletal remains are located at the Caribbean Primate Research Center and at New York University.

Wang, lead principal investigator, is working in tandem with Drs. Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg of Ohio State University, Martin Zhao of Mercer University and Luci Kohn of Southern Illinois University. The College of Dentistry will receive the majority of funding with $410,000. Wang and his colleagues will prepare a database to compile their findings.

“Bone dimensions, bone density, body mass, tooth eruption, and observable disease conditions of the rhesus monkey will be incorporated into the database with details on each individual’s sex, birth and death dates, parentage information, and social rank,” says Wang, 2019 teacher of the year.

By studying the skeletons, researchers will be able to learn more about the rhesus’ age-related degenerative conditions, such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, spondyloarthropathy, osteopenia, osteosarcoma and vertebral fractures.

“Knowledge of the history of health in the Cayo Santiago rhesus colony will provide a powerful non-human model to determine the influences of familial and environmental effects on health and help elucidate age-related diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis,” he says.

Cayo Santiago is an island located east of Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico.

— Kathleen Green Pothier