Research Overview

The focus of the lab is characterization of microstructure and mechanical properties of skeletal tissues across multiple length scales, with a primary focus on bone and a secondary focus on tendon. Both tissues have complex collagen-based hierarchical microstructures, in which changes at the microstructural level affect properties at larger length scales. As a result, diseases that affect material properties, such as osteoporosis, may cause structural failure. Furthermore, the microstructures of these tissues are dynamic and adapt to the local mechanical environment. The long-term goals of this work are to identify the material factors that contribute to the integrity of healthy skeletal tissues and to improve prediction of structural failure and treatments that may restore function to diseased tissues.

Our work includes translational studies of disease- and treatment-induced changes in the properties of bone mineral and collagen and their relationship to fracture incidence, as well as fundamental studies of microstructure-property relationships in bone and tendon. Techniques include Fourier transform infrared imaging, x-ray diffraction, multiphoton microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and nanoindentation. Characterizing microstructure-mechanical property relationships in skeletal tissues is essential to understanding the material factors that contribute to tissue integrity and degradation. The clinical relevance of the translational work lies in its potential to improve pharmacologic treatment for osteoporosis and minimize fracture risk.