Our current research focuses on biomechanics in
musculoskeletal system, in particular fluid and solute transport in bone
and cartilage. Osteocytes, the most numerous cells in bone, are critical for
bone health and bone quality. These star-like cells form an interconnected
network among themselves and also with other bone cells lining bone
surfaces. They function as sensor cells to detect external mechanical
stimuli and to pass the information to other bone cells responsible for new
bone formation (osteoblasts) and removal of existing bone (osteoclasts).
Since osteocytes are completely encased in mineralized bone matrix, their
survival and function are entirely dependent on transport of solutes (metabolites,
growth factors, cytokines, and other signaling molecules) through the
interconnected pore system around their cell bodies and long protrusions
(termed lacunar-canalicular system). Despite advances in delineating
transport pathways in bone, little is known about the mechanisms involved
in moving biological molecules to and from osteocytes in vivo. The other
active program is to understand the role of subchondral bone in the
development of osteoarthritis (OA) due to aging and altered joint loading.
Being a highly vascularized tissue, bone may respond to the altered joint
loading rapidly by increasing bone turnover, which may in turn lead to
changes in cartilage.
Several projects are being undertaken in my laboratory (1)
to investigate how solute diffusion and convection are modulated by the
ultrastructures of the fluid pathway and mechanical stimuli in normal and
diseased bones; (2) to develop novel imaging methods to quantify the
interstitial fluid flow in bone and cartilage; (3) to use animal models to
elucidate the etiology of OA.