The research program of Benjamin D. Elder, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on developing novel approaches for tissue engineering and regeneration of bone and cartilage for treatment of spinal pathologies. Despite treatment advances, degeneration of the spine remains a significant challenge with over 90% of adults in the U.S. experiencing an episode of back pain and over 400,000 fusion surgeries performed each year. Dr. Elder's research aims to develop new motion-sparing techniques for spine regeneration and optimize patient outcomes after fusion surgery.
In an additional area of research focus, Dr. Elder has an interest in better understanding idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH). This disorder is characterized by impaired drainage of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in older adults, leading to gait problems and imbalance, urinary incontinence, and cognitive dysfunction.
Dr. Elder works in collaboration with an outstanding multidisciplinary team of other clinicians, biomedical engineers and polymer chemists to accomplish these goals.
- Bone tissue engineering and regeneration. Dr. Elder's laboratory works on the development of novel, biocompatible and biodegradable polymer scaffolds for regeneration of bone and augmentation of spinal fusion. The laboratory is exploring different techniques for controlled growth factor and drug delivery, and optimizing protocols for differentiation and seeding of bone marrow and adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells.
- Cartilage tissue engineering and regeneration. Dr. Elder's laboratory collaborates with other biomedical engineers on the characterization of human facet joint cartilage to serve as a model for the development of novel approaches for regeneration of arthritic facet joint cartilage in the spine.
- Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH). In collaboration with a team of neurologists, neuroradiologists, neuro-ophthalmologists and biomedical engineers, Dr. Elder is investigating improved imaging and functional diagnostic tests for the diagnosis and characterization of iNPH. Additionally, his group is working to develop new tools to assess and optimize the gait apraxia in patients with iNPH, and explore the clinical and functional outcomes of patients treated with CSF diversion procedures.
Significance to patient care
Bone grafting is often required in combination with spinal stabilization for the treatment of degenerative pathology, scoliosis, trauma, tumors and other diseases. However, the limited supply of autograft tissue and donor site morbidity can significantly restrict its use. Furthermore, even with the use of autograft, pseudarthrosis or nonunion following spinal fusion remains a significant issue.
Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering approaches, through the development of novel biomaterials with controlled drug and growth factor delivery in combination with mesenchymal stem cells, represent a promising alternative to other tissue grafting techniques for augmenting spinal fusion rates and developing new motion-sparing approaches for treatment of spinal degeneration.
- Academic editor, PLOS One, 2018-present
- Temporary voting member, Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Devices Panel, Food and Drug Administration, 2018
- Recipient, Charlie Kuntz Scholar Award, Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)/Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), 2017
- Recipient, Frank L. Coulson, Jr. Award for Clinical Excellence, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 2017