Musculoskeletal Regeneration

Stem cells derived from blood vessels in fat tissue (pericytes) can help repair tissues and body function. They offer solutions for musculoskeletal trauma and degeneration and help improve function in a variety of ways.

The musculoskeletal regeneration research team in the Center for Regenerative Medicine serves as a therapeutic pipeline from biomedical discovery to clinical implementation, improving treatments for patients with conditions of the muscles, tendons, cartilage, meniscus and bone.

Musculoskeletal regeneration research at Mayo Clinic provides solutions to repair, restore or replace skeletal elements and associated tissues that are affected by acute injury, chronic degeneration, genetic dysfunction and cancer-related defects. The research goal is to improve quality of life and outcomes for people with musculoskeletal injury or degradation.

Teams of collaborative investigators identify clinical challenges in areas such as orthopedic surgery, sports medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation and improve the current standard of care. Based on patients' needs, researchers develop new technologies and advanced solutions to treat injury, degeneration and malformation of bone, meniscus, ligament, tendon, muscle or cartilage.

Musculoskeletal degeneration and complications from injuries have become more prevalent as people live longer and increasingly participate in rigorous athletic and recreational activities. Additionally, defects in skeletal tissues may immobilize people and cause inflammation and pain.

Research focus areas

Musculoskeletal regeneration researchers in the Center for Regenerative Medicine study musculoskeletal tissue injury and repair using molecular, cellular, tissue, organ and whole body-level approaches, including molecular profiling, histology, imaging and biomechanics. Research supports the integration of new knowledge into clinical practice to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the skeleton and its associated tissues. Areas of focus include:

  • Musculoskeletal repair. Researchers combine natural or synthetic scaffolds with cells and bioactive molecules to restore damaged bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons or muscles.
  • Bone growth. Biological integration of medical implants into the skeleton aims to achieve fusion with existing tissues and re-create normal movement of patients.
  • Stem cell therapy. Researchers analyze clinically relevant cell types used in therapies to treat musculoskeletal tissue degeneration and apply native or engineered skeletal progenitor cells directly to rejuvenate musculoskeletal tissues, triggering tissue repair and healing.
  • Gene therapy. The research team uses gene transfer technologies to treat genetic and acquired conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system.
  • Whole-body biomechanics. State-of-the-art biomechanical techniques are used to monitor tissue and joint loads along with muscle activation and force generation to determine their contributions to pathology and efficacy of treatments.
  • Tissue recycling. A multidisciplinary team of experts in orthopedic surgery, sports medicine, cell therapy and molecular biology combined to develop two joint repair research and clinical service lines — Recycled CartiLage Auto/Allo IMplantation (RECLAIM) and the Living Cartilage Allograft Program (LCAP). The team's work advances the understanding of joint homeostasis and improves clinical live tissue transplantation for joint repair.
  • Joint stiffening (arthrofibrosis). This work investigates the formation of extensive connective (scar) tissue that occurs after injury or surgery and leads to joint stiffening. The research team develops strategies to improve patient outcomes by examining the role of the immune system and inflammation-related mechanisms.

By combining existing knowledge with new discoveries, musculoskeletal regeneration researchers at Mayo Clinic develop innovative treatments, surgical procedures and medical devices to address the gamut of musculoskeletal disorders.

Clinical trial focus areas

Musculoskeletal regeneration clinical trials are ongoing in the following areas:

Mayo Clinic Uses Stem Cell Therapy to Treat Arthritis in Knee