Dr Natalie Wee

Research Officer, Bone cell biology & disease Laboratory

Defining the signals that stimulate bone formation where it is needed most

Current Research image

The Problem

Our skeletal health is determined by the strength of our bones and how well they can resist breaking. At a cellular level, our bones are continuously being broken down and rebuilt, throughout our lives. But as we age, bone breaks down more quickly than it is built – leading to conditions like osteoporosis.

Current treatments for osteoporosis preserve bone strength by increasing bone formation and inhibiting bone destruction. While these therapies are good for the spine, they are not effective at other bone sites – like the hip and wrist – where fractures are common.

Bone is made up of a thick outer shell that encases an internal honeycomb-like structure. If we could find a way to increase the strength of the hard outer surface of bone specifically, this would improve bone strength at the hip and wrist – the sites that most vulnerable when someone falls.

The project image

The Project

Dr Natalie Wee has recently discovered that there are specific molecular signals capable of stimulating the formation of new bone specifically on its hard outer surface. With the support of this award, she will define the mechanisms by which these signals work, as well as how they could be used for a drug therapy.

“My findings will be a first step forward toward designing therapies that can specifically strengthen the wrist and hip in people who have weak bones, due to osteoporosis or other causes,” says Natalie.

Bio image

Dr Natalie Wee

Natalie has focused on understanding bone biology for almost a decade, with a particular emphasis on examining specific bone cell populations that contribute to bone formation. She has a passion for lineage tracing, histology, imaging of bone, microcomputed tomography, and cell culture. She is also an active member of the scientific community, involved in mentoring programs, teaching, and serving on committees at institutional and national levels.

Natalie joined SVI’s Bone Cell Biology and Disease Lab in July 2020, supported by a fellowship from the Marion and EH Flack Trust. Since that time, Natalie has established several exciting projects, new methods within the lab, presented her findings at national and international conferences, and been recognised internationally as a Young Investigator by the 2022 AIMM/ASBMR John Haddad Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research.