Laboratory for Musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering
The Laboratory for Musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering, under the direction of Dr. Thomas Gill and Mark Randolph, is devoted to regenerative approaches for musculoskeletal repair. Together they have a research program exploring tissue engineering approaches to repair and regenerate cartilage and other soft connective tissues. Their primary interest focuses on repair and regeneration of traumatic sports-related injuries, particularly to the shoulder and knee.
One area of investigation is developing novel photocurable hydrogel polymers for delivering chondrocytes or chondrogenic precursor cells to cartilage defects. Using this approach, cells can be incorporated into the liquid phase of the polymers, injected into a defect area, and the gel polymerized in situ. The expected outcome is that new cartilage matrix is formed as the polymer biodegrades. In vivo results have been published using fibrin polymer, poly (ethylene glycol), and hyaluronic acid gels. Ongoing work sponsored by the US Department of Defense in collaboration with Dr. Kristi Anseth, a chemical engineer at the University of Colorado, is exporing other novel photochemically crosslinked gels such as collagen and norbornene gels. With greater understanding of cell polymer interactions, and the possible incorporation of growth factors, it may be possible to engineer cartilage that resembles native cartilage in every parameter.
Another area of active investigation is studying the integration of cell-seeded scaffolds and engineered cartilage with the native cartilage surrounding the defect. The poor healing capacity of injured cartilage is well established. To augment healing, it may be possible to use cell-seeded scaffolds to deliver chondrocytes or chondrogenic precursor cells to induce matrix formation and healing. Along with Dr. Lawrence Bonassar from Cornell University, we have published several reports on the potential for chondrocytes to bond or heal cartilage discs together with measurable forces. To extend this into a preclinical model, cell-seeded scaffolds have been inserted into bucket-handle lesions in swine with some success. Recent work has examined an approach using allogeneic cells and new scaffold material to repair lesions in swine knees.
Dr. Gill and his team have joined with the Center for Regenerative Medicine in a collaborative program to develop the use of stem cells in the regeneration of cartilage and to explore the tissue interactions among bone,cartilage, tendons and ligaments. The overall objective of these studies is to understand better the biology of the musculoskeletal system and to develop new theraputic approaches to treating orthopaedic diseases.