Skeletal Mechanobiology

Bone adapts very well to its mechanical environment. Increased mechanical loads result in bone formation and decreased mechanical loads result in bone loss. The Bone Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Lab at VCU focuses on how bone cells perceive mechanical signals and transmits these signals to changes in cell signaling, protein and gene expression. We are especially interested in the role of gap junctional intercellular communication in this process.  We use cell models and genetically engineered animal models to examine the role of gap junction proteins, or connexins, in bone adaptation to mechanical load. We are also very interested in how genetic variability affects bone adaptation to its mechanical environment. To this end we are examining musculoskeletal adaptation to the mechanical environment in diversity outbred mice.

Innovative Biomaterials for Skeletal Regeneration

The BEST Lab is also interested in regenerating bone loss to disease injury or ageing.  Our approach to skeletal regeneration involves identifying biomaterial properties, including surface topography, energy and chemistry that are optimally osteogenic in vitro and in vivo; developing  innovative biomaterials to enhance bone graft healing; and creating artificial bone constructs and scaffolds that are osteogenic and angiogenic.

Musculoskeletal Adaptation to Space Flight

Deep space flight, as on a mission to Mars, will expose astronauts to extended periods of microgravity and space radiation, both of which cause bone and muscle loss. The BEST Lab is interested in developing novel countermeasure to attenuated microgravity and radiation induced bone and muscle loss. We examine the effect of simulated microgravity and space radiation on bone and muscle in vivo and in vitro. As bone and muscle loss resulting from space flight is similar to age-related bone and muscle loss on Earth, countermeasure to treat space travel related bone and muscle loss will likely be effective in treating age-related bone on muscle loss on Earth.