Bone and Joint Research

The mission of the Bone and Joint Center of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is to perform integrated, state-of-the-art research into the musculoskeletal system with the goal of understanding disease processes and developing new treatments. Five bioscientific investigators pursue research programs in the structure, function, and pathology of musculoskeletal tissues, and interact with clinicians who also conduct research. Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and other bone and joint disease processes are studied in the laboratories, which are equipped to accommodate a full spectrum of research projects, from bioengineering to cell biology. Studies are funded by the NIH, Department of Defense and the pharmaceutical industry.

The Cell Biology section focuses on changes in chondrocyte behavior associated with cartilage degeneration in osteoarthritis. Our current focus aims at understanding the regulation of chondrocyte differentiation and the maintenance of the chondrocyte phenotype. Studies are also underway to identify genes that are essential for the survival of chondrocytes in chondrosarcomas, the second most common primary bone tumor. We have also investigated the role of microRNAs in maintaining cartilage integrity and the capacity of levels of non-coding RNAs (including microRNAs) in serum to predict cartilage pathology in early post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

The Musculoskeletal Genetics laboratory is focused on understanding the role extracellular matrix proteins play in connective tissue pathologies of cartilage, bone and muscle. The laboratory uses high throughput sequencing and functional genomics to define the genetic basis of Mendelian disorders in these tissues. Current projects investigate the genetic basis of chondrodysplasia, congenital muscular dystrophies and clubfoot.

The Mechanobiology section focuses on:

  1. cell-signaling mechanisms that govern the mechanical behavior of bone and its adaptation to mechanical loading
  2. cell-signaling mechanisms that enhance tissue growth and invasion of engineered scaffolds
  3. developing treatment and prevention strategies of musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis.

Ongoing research is also investigating the use of exercise as a form of mechanical loading to increase bone formation and overall strength.

The Biomechanics laboratory is focused on improving the diagnosis of bone fracture risk associated with osteoporosis and improving techniques for preventing and treating fractures. High-resolution imaging, computer simulation, mechanical testing and microscopy techniques are used to estimate how mechanical stress is distributed in bone, quantify the chemical and structural makeup of tissue, and estimate bone strength and fracture risk. New techniques are developed using imaging modalities such as tomosynthesis to quantify bone properties that predict fracture risk.

The Herrick-Davis Motion Analysis Laboratory studies the dynamic function of human joints and mechanical factors associated with degenerative joint and soft-tissue diseases. Ongoing studies are aimed at understanding how the treatment of rotator cuff tears affects long-term shoulder function, the impact of fusion and artificial disc replacement on spine motion, and the effects of surgical reconstruction techniques on knee and elbow function.

Contact information: Michael Bey, Ph.D., Division Head (313) 874-8322

Ted Parsons, M.D., Chair, Orthopedics, (313) 916-3879.

Visit The Bone and Joint Center Website