Image of a lab worker in the Tissue Engineering and Sarcoma Biology Lab at Mayo Clinic Changing the course of orthopedic conditions

Research in our lab has the potential to revolutionize treatment pathways for orthopedic conditions and spinal cord injuries through the use of biodegradable materials polymers.

Overview

The Tissue Engineering and Sarcoma Biology Laboratory investigates bone, cartilage and nerve tissue regeneration using synthetic polymeric scaffolds, cells and controlled delivery of bioactive molecules. Our lab also examines the molecular mechanism within musculoskeletal sarcomas, in addition to targeted drug delivery using biodegradable polymers.

Led by principal investigator Michael J. Yaszemski, M.D., Ph.D., and assistant director Avudaiappan (Avudai) Maran, Ph.D., the lab is equipped to perform polymer synthesis and characterization and scaffold fabrication using injectable and solid free-form fabrication techniques.

The use of biodegradable polymers that stimulate osteoblast production and function has major implications for spine stabilization and other musculoskeletal defects. The use of these polymers may reduce or eliminate the long-term use of spine instrumentation for stabilization. This would be particularly important in patients with chronic spine infections, especially those involving spine hardware used for spine instability or spinal cord injuries. Research advances in this area could fundamentally change the manner in which these problems are managed.

Even more intriguing is the possibility that the use of degradable scaffold polymers could facilitate or stimulate axonal regeneration in spinal cord injuries.

Biodegradable polymers may also have a major impact on the management of chronic nonunion of bone fractures. Current therapy often requires the use of bone grafts and internal or external instrumentation. Patients face long periods of hospitalization, the risk of infection, and major morbidity and mortality. The use of biodegradable polymers could significantly enhance fracture healing and reduce the need for hardware instrumentation. Infections that involve hardware are among the most serious complications of orthopedic surgery.

The long-term potential impact of our research is enormous and could fundamentally change the way many common, debilitating, life-threatening orthopedic conditions are treated. The results of our research could revolutionize a number of orthopedic and neurosurgical procedures that have been used for decades. Perhaps of even greater long-term significance is the suggestion that the use of biodegradable scaffold polymers may stimulate axonal regeneration in patients with spinal cord injuries.

About our directors

In addition to leading the lab, Dr. Yaszemski is an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the Krehbiel Family Endowed Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, and a professor of biomedical engineering at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota.

His research interests are in the synthesis and characterization of novel biodegradable polymers for use in bone, cartilage and nerve regeneration, and the controlled delivery of chemotherapeutic agents to musculoskeletal tumors. His clinical practice encompasses spine surgery and musculoskeletal oncology. Dr. Yaszemski's distinguished military career continues to influence his role as a physician and researcher.

Dr. Maran is an established research scientist and an associate professor of both biomedical engineering and orthopedics at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester. He's dedicated to making a significant impact on care and treatment options for patients with osteosarcoma.