The human musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, joints, skeletal muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout the entire body. It is one of the most extensive systems in the body and is what drives every move that we make, from pointing our finger to running a marathon. With over 200 bones and 7,600 muscles, researchers in the field of musculoskeletal regeneration have their work cut out for them! The extracellular matrix of bone and cartilage is their basic functional unit, whereas in other tissues, the cells themselves are the basic functional unit. Damage to any one of the tissues in this system can be catastrophic to the individual and we have yet to discover how to effectively regenerate portions of the musculoskeletal system to regain partial or full function following severe damage.
Dr. Dudley and his laboratory study the musculoskeletal system and how it develops. 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 development of the matrix as well as the development and growth of the cells themselves. Dr. Dudley states, “Establishing the infrastructure of the matrix as well as the cellular component is critical as we look to understand how the regeneration processes can be applied to the musculoskeletal system".
Projects in the laboratory include foci such as bone development and the generation of progenitor cells (endogenous stem cells) from existing bone tissue for use in regeneration via genetic manipulation. Bone development is driven by the growth plate cartilage, which is 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, 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 and rearrangements, along with 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.
- Focus Areas