Catherine B. Kirn-Safran, Ph.D.


Introductory Biology II (BISC208)

Human Physiology (BISC276)

Teaching Experience (BISC422)

First Year Experience I (UNIV101)

Dr. Kirn-Safran uses her passion for life sciences and longstanding experience with research and the scientific method to introduce students to important concepts in field as various as evolution, plant & animal physiology, and environmental sciences. Her instructional strengths include emphasis on student engagement in the classroom, continuous evaluation of student learning progress, and special attention to student equity and wellbeing.

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 recent years, Dr. Kirn-Safran worked on the effect of load on bone mechanosensation and transduction. She characterized a mouse model expressing reduced levels of a proteoglycan, perlecan/Hspg2 (Lowe et al., 2014), which is abundant in developing bone and adult cartilage tissue. Interestingly, perlecan/Hspg2 is found in the pericellular matrix of osteocytes (cells embedded in bone tissue) where it is believed to function as a tethering element that detects and transduces signals to the bone cellular network (Wang et al., 2014). Therefore, it is believed that perlecan/Hspg2 functions as a mechanosensor of bone response to load.

The goal of current studies is to determine whether perlecan/Hspg2 is a drug target for the treatment of patients suffering from osteoporosis. This work is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Liyun Wang (UD, Department of Mechanical Engineering), who is a specialist in bone biomechanics.

Current Projects

  • NIH R01-AR054385 (PI: L. Wang, Mechanical Engineering), Investigator: C. Kirn-Safran, Mechanosensing in the Bone Lacunar-Canalicular System.

Selected Publications


  • US-2014/0005111-A1 application entitled “Injectable Delivery System for Heparan-Binding Growth Factors” issued February 2017.





Assistant Professor

Phone: (302) 831-3249

Fax: (302) 831-2281


Office: 310 Wolf Hall

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