Christopher H. Evans, Ph.D., is using his background in cell and molecular biology to solve clinical problems involving bones and joints. Gene therapy is his major, but not sole, technology platform.
Research in Dr. Evans' Musculoskeletal Gene Therapy Research Laboratory has two main focuses: arthritis and tissue regeneration. The development of a gene therapy for arthritis is at an advanced preclinical stage, and the goal is to eventually initiate human clinical trials. Tissue regeneration focuses on bone healing and cartilage repair. This work is currently at a preclinical stage.
- Gene therapy for arthritis. The initial disease target is osteoarthritis, but the technology is suitable for other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
- Bone healing and cartilage regeneration. Various gene, cell and mechanics-based strategies are being evaluated for their ability to restore tissue. Emphasis is given to expedited techniques that can be accomplished within a single operation.
- Influence of inflammation on bone healing and cartilage regeneration. Dr. Evans and his colleagues have noted that inflammatory mediators inhibit the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into chondrocytes, yet enhance certain aspects of their osteogenic differentiation. The consequences for tissue repair are under investigation.
Significance to patient care
Gene therapy offers new and more effective ways to treat osteoarthritis, which carries a massive disease burden for patients and society. The disease is incurable, largely untreatable and the major cause of disability among the elderly. Approximately 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis, a number that is increasing due to demographic changes, and health care costs are in the billions of dollars every year.
Approximately 5 to 10 percent of bone fractures do not heal properly, and large bone defects remain major clinical problems leading, in some cases, to amputation. The research of Dr. Evans and his colleagues aims to develop novel, more-effective and affordable technologies for healing bones, thereby improving quality of life and lowering costs. Similar technologies are being explored for cartilage repair.
- Chair, Editorial Advisory Board, Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 2014
- Arthur Steindler, MD Award, Orthopaedic Research Society, for understanding the musculoskeletal system, 2010
- Honorary Fellow, Swansea University, Wales, U.K., 2009
- Marshall R. Urist, MD Award, Orthopaedic Research Society, for excellence in tissue regeneration, 2009
- President, Orthopaedic Research Society, 2004-2005