Thorsten Kirsch

Thorsten Kirsch, PhD

Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Professor, Department of Cell Biology


The primary focus in my laboratory is to understand the mechanisms regulating the differentiation events of precursor cells into mature skeletal tissue cells. We specifically focus on the role of two proteins, annexins and progressive ankylosis gene (Ank) in these differentiation events. Annexins are Ca2+ channel forming proteins, which also interact with extracellular matrix proteins. Our work has shown that annexins mediate Ca2+ influx into growth plate chondrocytes thereby stimulating terminal differentiation and mineralization events in these cells. In addition, interaction of annexin V with types II and X collagen stimulates its Ca2+ channel activities and these interactions further accelerate terminal differentiation events. Our laboratory was the first to show that articular chondrocytes in osteoarthritis undergo similar terminal differentiation events as growth plate chondrocytes. In addition, annexins are expressed by osteoarthritic chondrocytes but not by healthy articular chondrocytes, suggesting that annexins may also control terminal differentiation events in osteoarthritis leading to cartilage destruction. Therefore, annexins may provide novel therapeutic targets to slow down or prevent the progression of osteoarthritis. In a second project we investigate the role of Ank in skeletal tissue cell differentiation. Ank is highly expressed by hypertrophic growth plate chondrocytes and the protein transports intracellular pyrophosphate to the extracellular milieu. In the presence of alkaline phosphatase pyrophosphate is being cleaved into phosphate, and phosphate then acts as a signaling molecule that regulates cell differentiation events. Our findings suggest that Ank regulates terminal differentiation and mineralization events of growth plate chondrocytes by altering pyrophosphate/phosphate homeostasis. In addition, mice lacking a functional Ank protein have a severely reduced bone mass. Our findings further suggest that Ank is required for the differentiation of osteoblasts and osteoclasts and that the lack of Ank prevents or slows down the differentiation of precursor cells into osteoblasts and osteoclasts.

Dr. Kirsch's research interests include chondrocyte and osteoblast biology and differentiation, molecular mechanisms regulating physiological and pathological mineralization, and osteoarthritis. His research has been funded by several sources, including the National Institutes of Health and the Arthritis Foundation. He has published more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals and spoken at numerous national an international meetings.



Academic office

301 East 17th Street

Fifteenth Floor

New York, NY 10003

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Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Professor, Department of Cell Biology

Vice Chair for Research, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

PhD from Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen

Huang, Xiayun; Schmidt, Tannin A; Shortt, Claire; Arora, Shivani; Asari, Akira; Kirsch, Thorsten; Cowman, Mary K

Glycobiology. 2018 Mar 1; 28(3):137-147

Liu, JX; Bravo, D; Buza, J; Kirsch, T; Kennedy, O; Rokito, A; Zuckerman, JD; Virk, MS

Journal of orthopaedics. 2018; 15(1):53-58

Liu, James X; Werner, Jordan A; Buza, John A 3rd; Kirsch, Thorsten; Zuckerman, Joseph D; Virk, Mandeep S

Spine. 2017 Dec 1; 42(23):1757-1762

AlphaScreen assays for detection of hyaluronan-protein binding [Meeting Abstract]

Cowman, Mary K.; Huang, Xiayun; Schmidt, Tannin A.; Shortt, Claire; Arora, Shivani; Asari, Akira; Kirsch, Thorsten

Glycobiology. 2017 DEC; 27:1251-1251

+/- the cytotoxicity profile of vancomycin hydrochloride on proliferating osteoblasts, fibroblasts, and myoblasts [Meeting Abstract]

Liu, J X; Buza, J; Kirsch, T; Kennedy, O D; Rokito, A S; Zuckerman, J D; Virk, M

Journal of shoulder & elbow surgery. 2017 October; (ASES):e331-e332

Minashima, Takeshi; Quirno, Martin; Lee, You Jin; Kirsch, Thorsten

Bone. 2017 Mar 08; 98:38-46

Optimizing the stem cell niche for improved cartilage repair [Meeting Abstract]

Shortt, C; Nichakawade, T; Cowman, M; Kirsch, T

Journal of orthopaedic research. 2017 March; (2017):

Danna, Natalie R; Beutel, Bryan G; Ramme, Austin J; Kirsch, Thorsten; Kennedy, Oran D; Strauss, Eric

Cartilage. 2016 Dec 12; 9(1):63-70