Catherine B. Kirn-Safran, Ph.D.


Introductory Biology II (BISC208)

Teaching Experience (BISC422)

Research Interests

Dr. Kirn-Safran is best known for her work on the study of the terminal differentiation of progenitor cells into cells producing an organized mineralized extracellular matrix (ECM) during murine embryonic development. This area of research includes the study of the mechanisms of cartilage (chondrogenesis), bone (osteogenesis), and tooth (odontogenesis) development.

During the past years, Dr. Kirn-Safran has worked to develop a knock-out mouse model that disrupts the expression of a ribosomal protein of the ribosome large subunit, RPL29, which is abundant in developing bone. The phenotypic characterization of these mutant mice showed global growth deficiencies evident both prior to and after birth (Kirn-Safran et al., 2007). Interestingly, low birth weight was accompanied by a short stature phenotype. Reduced rates in proliferation and protein synthesis are believed to be the cause of this phenotype. Dr. Kirn-Safran's ongoing research focuses on establishing how altered ECM protein production/secretion influences bone properties in the RPL29-deficient mouse model. She is currently collaborating with Dr. Liyun Wang (UD, Department of Mechanical Engineering), who is a specialist in bone mechanics and studies genetic influences on cellular mechanotransduction in bone. In addition, other genetic mouse models developing chondral defects are studied to understand the molecular mechanisms regulating joint dysplasia syndromes.

Recently, Dr. Kirn-Safran's group has been working on identifying novel strategies to slow osteoarthritis progression. One approach consists of using heparan sulfate-bearing biomaterials coupled to hyaluronan microgels for prolonged delivery of chondrogenic factors. This work is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Xinqiao Jia (UD, Department of Materials Science and Engineering). The therapeutic potential of these complexes is tested in vitro on cartilage stem cell cultures and in a mouse model of early osteoarthritis using an intra-articular injection approach. Discovery of novel methods for activating stem cells in damaged cartilage will benefit a wide range of patients affected with chondral lesions.

Current Projects

  • Delaware Rehabilitation Institute (DRI) Pilot, T-Type Calcium Channel: A novel target for treatment of osteoarthritis
  • NIH R01-AR054385 (PI: L. Wang, Mechanical Engineering), Investigator: C. Kirn-Safran, Mechanosensing in the Bone Lacunar-Canalicular System.

Research Group

Sucharitha Parthasarathy. Graduate Student. Use of experimental and genetic mouse model of osteoporosis to study the molecular mechanisms involved in disease progression and bone mechanosensation.

Selected Publications


  • US-2014/0005111-A1 entitled “Injectable Delivery System for Heparan-Binding Growth Factors” filed on 01/02/2014.



Assistant Professor

Phone: (302) 831-3249

Fax: (302) 831-2281


Office: 310 Wolf Hall

Lab: 251 McKinly

Department of Biological Sciences
Wolf Hall
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716


  • B.S., M.S., Ph.D. - University of Strasbourg, France
  • Postdoctoral - University of Texas-Houston, Dental Branch and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center