DDS/PhD student receives young investigator award for osteoclast research

Headshot of Kristina Astleford Hopper on a School of Dentistry branded background

Kristina Astleford-Hopper, DDS/PhD ’26, received the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASMBR) Young Investigator Award for her research in osteoclast biology.

Astleford-Hopper was honored with the award, which includes a plaque presentation and an honorarium, for her presentation of Loss of LSD1 Upregulates IFN-ß Signaling, Diminishing Osteoclast Differentiation. She presented a plenary poster on the topic at the ASMBR annual meeting in September 2022.

Research has always been part of the plan for Astleford-Hopper, who is in her fifth year of the joint DDS/PhD program and her first year of dental studies. “Research is an essential aspect  in progressing our field forward,” she reflected. “Without it, we would not have many of the new technologies that we use in the clinics every day.”

At the same time, Astleford-Hopper fell in love with clinical dentistry. “The more I learned about dentistry and the science behind it, the more I was interested in pursuing a dental career.”

The School of Dentistry allows her to pursue both. “I am able to understand the science behind what we do, and ensure we provide our patients with the best care possible,” she said.

Astleford-Hopper works with Kim Mansky, PhD, professor of orthodontics and director of the Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training Program. She studies osteoclasts, which are “cells that play an important role in regulating our skeleton through bone resorption” and “are also the primary drivers of bone loss in osteoporosis and periodontal disease.”

She focuses her research on understanding why, when and how these cells cause bone loss. “My project focuses on understanding the epigenetics behind osteoclast differentiation,” she explained. “We want to learn more about these mechanisms so we can easily target them using drug therapy to prevent osteoclast-induced bone loss.”

Kristina Astleford Hopper with her award

When she found out her research landed her the Young Investigator award, Astleford-Hopper was “in shock.”

“I felt absolutely honored to receive this award alongside many amazing researchers,” she said. “This recognition of my work inspires me to continue pursuing research in the skeletal biology field in hopes of making a direct impact on my future patients’ lives.”

As she moves forward, Astleford-Hopper hopes to practice as an oral pathologist and pursue research and teaching in academia. But for now, she’s excited to continue making discoveries and get started on her dental studies at a place that feels like home.

“The University of Minnesota was an easy pick for me, because I have been doing research here since 2011,” she said. “Through my 11 years here, I have met so many wonderful staff and faculty, and I could not see myself anywhere else.”