Michael J. Yaszemski, M.D., Ph.D., investigates bone, cartilage and spinal cord regeneration using synthetic polymeric scaffolds, cells and controlled delivery of bioactive molecules. Dr. Yaszemski's Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Laboratory is equipped to perform polymer synthesis and characterization and scaffold fabrication utilizing injectable techniques and solid freeform fabrication techniques.
Dr. Yaszemski's research team cultures cell-polymer constructs, studies delivery kinetics of bioactive molecules from microparticles and microparticle-scaffold combinations, and studies these scaffold-cell-biomolecule combinations in vivo. The team investigates musculoskeletal sarcoma biology and works on the controlled local delivery of chemotherapeutic agents to osteosarcoma, chordoma and chrondrosarcoma.
The laboratory is fully equipped for molecular biology and bone histomorphometry, with a focus on translational research for current clinical needs.
- Biodegradable polymers. Dr. Yaszemski's laboratory focuses on the synthesis and characterization of novel biodegradable polymers for use in bone regeneration. The use of these polymers may reduce or eliminate the long-term use of stabilizing spine instrumentation for patients with chronic spine infections.
- Bone tissue engineering. In addition to their work with biodegradable polymers, Dr. Yaszemski's research team carries out investigations modulation of cellular function using polymeric nanocomposites, bone defect repair through the controlled delivery of growth factors, and the development of noninvasive tools for fracture risk analysis and treatment.
- Spinal cord regeneration. Research in Dr. Yaszemski's laboratory suggests that the use of biodegradable polymers as a type of scaffolding to support the spine may facilitate or stimulate axonal regeneration in spinal cord injuries.
- Nerve tissue engineering. Dr. Yaszemski's research team is working to engineer polymeric nerve tubes for peripheral nerve regeneration as well as multichanneled nerve conduits for spinal cord injury.
- Molecular and cellular biology. Researchers in Dr. Yaszemski's lab are investigating the biology and genetics of cancers, including breast cancer and bone cancer, on the cellular and molecular levels.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Yaszemski's long-term research goal is to fundamentally change the way that many common debilitating, life-threatening orthopedic conditions are treated. The use of biodegradable polymers in bone engineering will be of particular importance to patients currently using spinal hardware for spine instability or spinal cord injuries.
Biodegradable polymers may also have a major impact on the management of chronic nonunion of bone fractures. Current therapy often entails the use of bone grafts, internal or external instrumentation, long periods of hospitalization, the risk of infection, and major morbidity and mortality. The use of biodegradable polymers in these patients could significantly enhance fracture healing and reduce the need for metallic instrumentation, thereby eliminating one of the most serious complications of orthopedic surgery.
Additionally, the possibility of stimulating axonal regeneration in patients with spinal cord injuries through the use of biodegradable scaffold polymers holds the potential to revolutionize the treatment of patients with spinal injuries.
- Member, Science Board, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2014-present
- Co-director, Clinical Trials Oversight Group, Mayo Clinic, 2014-present
- Editorial board, Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery, 2012-present
- William W. Tipton Jr., M.D., Leadership Award, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2013
- Joint Meritorious Service medal, United States armed forces, 2013
- Legion of Merit medal, United States armed forces, 2011