Five-year grant creates Center for Musculoskeletal Biology and Medicine

A five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institute of Ar-thritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases will allow investigators from more than 50 laboratories at the School of Medicine to join forces in the fight against musculoskeletal disorders.


The grant funds a Core Center for Musculoskeletal Biology and Medicine. Its goal is to better understand causes and potential treatments for muscle and bone disorders, including osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and muscular dystrophy. The center also is designed to aid in the development of new and better ways to regenerate bone, cartilage, tendons and muscle tissue.

“This center represents a major step forward in our efforts to treat bone and muscle diseases,” said Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “As our researchers collaborate to make new discoveries and to translate those discoveries into better patient care, combining the efforts of scientists from multiple departments will improve communication and cooperation in ways that can speed the pace of discovery.”

The center will support and expedite the creation and study of animal models relevant to musculoskeletal biology and disease. Investigators will be organized into three research cores: one for musculoskeletal structure and strength; one to analyze molecular structures of both healthy and sick bones, muscles and connective tissue; and one will use genetic engineering techniques to create mouse models of various muscle, bone and connective tissue diseases.

Traditionally, the majority of research into muscle and bone diseases has been conducted by investigators in the departments of Medicine, of Pathology and Immunology and of Ortho-paedic Surgery, but recently, those investigators have launched collaborations with scientists in anatomy and neurobiology, biomedical engineering, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics and pediatrics. Part of the reason for creating the new center is to improve communication between all of those researchers from different, and often unrelated, areas of the University.

“Musculoskeletal disorders affect most Americans over 50 as well as many younger, very active individuals,” said Linda J. Sandell, Ph.D., the Mildred B. Simon Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and director of the center. “Although Washington University has a long record of excellence in musculoskeletal research and clinical care, much of that research has occurred in individual laboratories that may, or may not, regularly communicate with colleagues in other departments. This effort was developed to unify and expand research in basic and translational studies that will improve the quality of life in our aging population.”

In addition to Sandell, the center’s co-directors will be Steven Teitelbaum, M.D., the Messing Professor of Pathology and Immunology, and Matthew Silva, Ph.D., associate professor of orthopaedic surgery.