Dr. Dudley and his laboratory study the musculoskeletal system and how it develops. The extracellular matrix of bone and cartilage is their basic functional unit, whereas in other tissues, the cells themselves are the basic functional unit. Dr. Dudley studies how the extracellular matrix develops so that bone and cartilage can form appropriately. This presents many challenges due to the number of complexities that accompany the not only the development of the matrix but also the development and growth of the cells themselves. “Establishing the infrastructure of the matrix as well as the cellular component is necessary/critical as we look to understand how the regeneration processes can be applied to the musculoskeletal system.
Projects in his laboratory include foci such as bone development and the generation of progenitor cells (endogenous stem cells) from the present bone tissue to utilize in regeneration via genetic manipulation. Bone development is driven by the growth plate cartilage, which is a made up of cells that create their own strictly controlled environment. The cartilage cells secrete signaling and matrix molecules that organize the surrounding cartilage into structured zones. As the cells mature and take on the identity of each zone and in turn, their cell divisions and rearrangements dictate the rate of bone growth and the final size and shape of the bone. By studying these cell divisions/rearrangements, as well as the signaling pathways and mechanisms that control them, Dudley and his team will be able to better understand how to employ these methods in the field of regenerative medicine.
Some of the techniques utilized in Dr. Dudley’s laboratory include time-lapse fluorescence microscopy on living growth plate cartilage explants and creating of in vitro models of the growth plate by applying appropriate signaling pathways.