The Penn orthpaedics research group is one of the largest in the nation in terms of grants from the National Institutes of Health. Its size is reflected in the richness of both clinical work – including a bilateral hand transplant performed by a multi-disciplinary team of surgeons — and fundamental and translational research on bones and the connective tissue that binds them into a functional skeleton. The clinical side of Penn orthpaedics is led by L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS, director of the Penn Hand Transplant Program, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, the Paul. B. Magnuson Professor of Bone and Joint Surgery, and professor of Surgery (Division of Plastic Surgery).
Penn's basic orthpaedics research takes place at the McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, led by Louis J. Soslowsky, PhD
That proximity means investigators working on molecular signaling inside cells are reminded of key clinical challenges on a regular basis, and clinical investigators might have the opportunity to question what is the underlying cellular or genetic cause of the disease affecting their patients.
FROM CELLS TO PATIENTS: RESEARCHERS RESTORE DAMAGED JOINTS AND TISSUE
Broken bones can generally heal themselves, but the same can't be said for the soft tissues, like cartilage and ligaments, that surround them. Recently, though, Penn Medicine investigators have been developing ways to artificially regrow these tissues using nanofibers as structural guides. The nanofibers may one day give runners' knees a few more years on the road and help relieve back pain in patients with disc problems. Read more.
THE POWER OF A GENE: FOP RESEARCH LEAPS FORWARD
Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, or FOP, is a rare disease in which patients' muscles turn to bone. Over time, the affected individuals become encased in a second, inflexible skeleton. In 2006, after 15 years of work, Frederick S. Kaplan, MD and Eileen M. Shore, PhD, discovered the gene mutation that causes FOP. The discovery has led to a deeper understanding of what goes awry in patients' tissues — and points to potential avenues for therapy. Read more.