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Research Programs

Department research focuses in two areas: the pathological basis for orthopaedic problems (understanding why musculoskeletal problems occur), and therapeutic approaches to orthopaedic problems (what can be done about it?)

Researchers investigating the pathological basis for orthopaedic problems studied cellular response (inflammation, abnormal repair, and accelerated degradation); extracellular influences (mechanical stress, growth factors, extracellular matrix); the genetic basis for problems (mutations, predispositions); and aging.

Research on therapeutic approaches to orthopaedic problems focused on surgical procedures (prosthetic devices, metal implants, and biomaterials); orthobiologics (growth factors, recombinant proteins; protein matrices and biogels; and acellular tissues); and cellular therapies (stem cell, cells or tissues amplified in vitro, and platelet infusion).

Dr. Hasty continued her research related to mechanisms that are involved in destruction of the joints in rheumatoid and degenerative arthritis. A NIH grant with Dr. John Stuart enabled her to study a spontaneous arthritis in laboratory mice. In addition, with Drs. Fred Azar and Kwideok Park, Dr. Hasty has started studies of cartilage replacement in pig knees using tissue cultured in the laboratory. In a related area, Dr. Hasty is engaged in tissue engineering research, concentrating on growing and implanting an individual's own stem cell to regenerate tissue.

Types of Research

Basic Research Clinical Research Translational Research
Laboratory studies at the cellular level conducted to increase understanding of fundamental life processes. The "bench" level of research. Findings from basic research are carried to pre-clinical studies before use with patients. Studies using human materials, patient records, etc. Includes studies on  the mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic interventions, and clinical trials. The "bedside" level of research. Applying discoveries generated during research in the laboratory and in pre-clinical studies to the development of trials and studies in humans.

A Broad Array of Projects

Basic research studies and projects currently underway at the University of Tennessee-Campbell Clinic include:

  • Regenerative medicine, osteoarthritis, articular cartilage, and intervertebral disc studies that focus on identifying factors involved in cartilage repair
  • Intervertebral disc disease tissue engineering studies that focus on stopping degeneration or degradation of discs
  • Treatment of cartilage degeneration with bioactive peptides
  • Antibody targeted nanosome delivery system as a means to study damaged cartilage
  • Study of herniated tissues from intervertebral discs treated with platelet-rich plasma
  • Gender differences in the effect of Vitamin C on skeletal development
  • Identification and analysis of candidate genes relevant to skeletal quantitative traits in order to study bone mineral density, bone size, bone strength, and bone quality
  • Better integration of soft tissue and bone for ligament repair
  • Development of a unique collagen scaffold for bone repair
  • Biocompatibility of polymers and metals; factors affecting this response

Research's Goal: Better Therapies

Karen Hasty, PhD, Wilhelm Professor

Dr. Karen Hasty, Wilhelm Professor of Orthopaedic Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Member of the Campbell foundation Board of Trustees, is principal investigator in a study of genes relevant to arthritis and skeletal variation.

Dr. Hasty and her co-investigators will inject a male and female of defined inbred mouse strains with florescent antibodies recognizing damaged cartilage in the joints to evaluate early arthritis. Identification of arthritis will be used to determine genes of interest in these mice.

The use of special inbred mouse strains developed and characterized by Dr. Rob Williams at UTHSC allows reproducible studies involving many genes that interact and influence cartilage and bone. This is one of a series of studies undertaken with the goal of developing therapeutic interventions for musculoskeletal problems.

Dr. Hasty has served as principal investigator on numerous projects spanning a 25-year career in orthopaedic research.

She said, "We are entering an age when personalized medicine will relate to the individual with respect to diagnosis of disease as well as optimized treatment protocols. In order to provide the best healthcare for a particular patient, we need musculoskeletal disease or condition and what genetic variations are present in this individual that would influence his treatment or outcome. Tomorrow's treatments begin with today's research."

Weikuan Gu, PhD, Professor

Dr. Weikuan Gu, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UTHSC, is a principal investigator for three research projects currently underway.

  • Construction of gene regulatory network (GRN) using a mouse model to study Bone Mineral Density (BMD), a critical factor in determining an individual's risk for bone fracture. Dr. Gu expects to learn about genetic controls of BMD and the significance of genetic background in one's risk for bone fracture.
  • Comparison of gene expression levels in muscle from patients with bone fractures, comparing the tissues from aged persons to that from young persons. Dr. Gu will collect smalls samples of muscle tissue from young and aged volunteers with bone fractures, extracting RNA from the samples to identify differently expressed genes. Dr. Gu hopes to obtain information relevant to post-operative therapies.
  • Comparison of levels of gene expressions in male and female mice, with  and without bone fractures, to better understand genetic elements that regulate bone fractures. After extracting RNA, he will conduct a gene microarray and analyze resulting data in order to collect important data for sex-specific genetic control of bone fractures.

Osteoarthritis Studies Continue.....

Arthritis affects almost every American age 70 and older. Although there are many treatments, there are no cures. UT-Campbell Clinic researchers are working to change that.

Dr. Karen Hasty is leading a research effort using nanotechnology to develop a methods for early detection and monitoring of osteoarthritis. Her colleagues on the project are Drs. Eugene Pinkhassik, Hongsik Cho, and John Stuart. A guinea pig model will be used; osteoarthritis in guinea pigs shares many features of human osteoarthritis. This diverse team of researchers has developed detectable, fluorescent nanosomes (membrane-enclosed sacs that can be used to transport substances) specifically targeted to osteoarthritic joints with antibodies. The project's aim, Dr. Hasty said, is to show that such nanosomes can be valuable diagnostic tools capable of directing therapeutic agents to joints with early-stage lesions.

"There's a great deal of interest in earlier intervention for osteoarthritis when the cartilage damage is small and possibly more easily treated," Dr. Hasty said. "The major obstacle for developing disease modifying treatments for arthritis is that we lack a method of detecting early lesions. Biomarkers to date for this disease are not sensitive or accurate enough, a fact that seriously impedes progress in the field.

We are entering an age where personalized medicine will relate to the individual with respect to diagnosis of disease as well as optimized treatment protocols.

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May 26, 2022