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Release: Oct. 31, 2002

Photos: Joseph Buckwalter, M.D., professor and head of the UI department of orthopaedic surgery and the SCOR project's principal investigator (top); co-principal investigator is Thomas Brown, Ph.D., director of the UI Orthopaedic Biomechanics Lab.

Orthopaedic Surgery Receives $5 Million Osteoarthritis Grant

The University of Iowa Health Care department of orthopaedic surgery recently earned a prestigious Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant in osteoarthritis from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The award, titled, "Pathogenesis – Prevention of Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis," will provide approximately $5 million over five years to four individual projects that will advance the understanding, prevention and treatment of post-traumatic osteoarthritis, the pain and joint stiffness that frequently develops following joint trauma. Common injuries that lead to post-traumatic arthritis are work- and motor vehicle-related accidents and sports injuries. Because joint injuries are so common, the disease affects people of all ages.

"The underlying causes and mechanisms of post-traumatic osteoarthritis are very poorly understood. Only through advances in understanding of these mechanisms will it be possible to improve the prevention and treatment of this crippling disease," said Joseph Buckwalter, M.D., professor and head of the UI department of orthopaedic surgery and the SCOR project's principal investigator. The co-principal investigator is Thomas Brown, Ph.D., director of the UI Orthopaedic Biomechanics Lab.

Specialized Centers of Research increase the transfer of basic research findings into clinical practice by conducting laboratory and clinical studies under one roof. SCOR programs focus on a single disease and are considered national resources associated with one or more major medical centers. UI Health Care's is one of only two SCOR programs in the country addressing osteoarthritis, and it is the only such program awarded entirely to an orthopaedic surgery department. This new award brings to 10 the overall number of SCOR programs currently active at UI.

"The UI department of orthopaedic surgery has a unique set of strengths that led to the awarding of this grant, including surgeons who are internationally recognized for their expertise in treating patients with joint injuries caused by accidents or sports," Buckwalter said. "We also have an outstanding basic research program investigating the biology of joints and, in particular, articular cartilage, and we have produced important work related to the aging and degeneration of articular cartilage that leads to osteoarthritis."

Buckwalter also noted that the department of orthopaedic surgery has one of the premiere orthopaedic biomechanics laboratories and research programs. "The laboratory has, over the years, contributed to dramatic advances in joint replacement for the hip, the development of a new wrist replacement device, and treatment of disorders that cause crippling arthritis of the hip and ankle," he said.

"Even though post-traumatic osteoarthritis is a major problem clinically, there haven't been good ways to study it systematically, to learn the nuts and bolts of what actually goes wrong at the tissue level or how to surgically intervene to most effectively help patients," Brown said. "Since many aspects of post-traumatic osteoarthritis are mechanical –- for example, impact injury of cartilage and high joint pressures due to deformity –- a major thrust of this SCOR grant has been to develop new biomechanical research tools that allow us to do systematic studies that previously weren't possible."

The four individual projects funded by this award are:

-- Mechanical Determinants of Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis (J. Lawrence Marsh, M.D., principal investigator).

-- Effects of Distraction and Motion on Osteoarthritis (Charles Saltzman, M.D., principal investigator).

-- Pathomechanical Etiology of Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis (Todd McKinley, M.D., principal investigator).

-- Oxidative Stress in Post-Traumatic OA (Joseph Buckwalter, M.D., principal investigator).

Additionally, the grant funds two core units, which serve as support units for all four projects. These are the Administrative and Biostatistics Core (under Buckwalter) and the Biomechanics Core (under Brown).

Other UI faculty involved in the SCOR project include: Ned Amendola, M.D., associate professor of orthopaedic surgery; Lizann Bolinger, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of radiology and biomedical engineering; George El-Khoury, M.D., professor of radiology; Nicole Grosland, Ph.D., assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and biomedical engineering; Anneliese Heiner, Ph.D., associate research engineer in orthopaedic surgery; Stephen Hillis, Ph.D., senior biostatistician, Program for Interdisciplinary Research in Health Care Organization; James A. Martin, Ph.D., associate research scientist in orthopaedic surgery; Douglas Pedersen, Ph.D., research engineer in orthopaedic surgery; and M. James Rudert, Ph.D., associate research engineer in orthopaedic surgery.

"This award is an extraordinary tribute to Drs. Buckwalter and Brown and their colleagues and is a further indication of the premier national ranking of the department of orthopaedic surgery," said Allyn Mark, M.D., executive dean of the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

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