Research in the Tissue Mechanics Laboratory is currently focused on bone mechanobiology, with an emphasis on how mechanical loading affects bone marrow and osteocyte gene and protein expression. Bone health issues, such as osteoporosis, are expected to affect 50% of Americans by the year 2010. We use bioreactor culture systems to apply controlled loading to bone explants harvested from animals, and construct computational models to determine the local stress or strain states. Mapping the mechanical environment to the biological response provides a mechanism to understand how bone or marrow cells respond to specific stress states.
We are using similar technology to help understand the interaction between bone mechanobiology and metastatic cancer. Cancer preferentially metastasizes to bone, and it is very difficult to detect the presence of cancer cells in the bone marrow within the mineralized tissue. Moreover, cancer in the bone environment may not respond to typical chemotherapies. We are trying to understand how the interaction with the normal mechanobiology of bone might affect the tumor biology.
The Tissue Mechanics Laboratory is part of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. The department has established a focused graduate research group in the field of biomechanics and biomaterials in orthopaedics. A weekly bioengineering seminar series is presented by graduate students in the various research groups within the department.
The Tissue Mechanics Laboratory is also associated with the Harper Cancer Research Center, which provides resources for collaboration among biologists, physical scientists and engineers on the Notre Dame campus. We are also associated with the Notre Dame Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. The goal of this center is to provide a scientific center for researchers at Notre Dame to pursue cell based therapies that will affect human health.
For information on graduate study in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, consult the graduate studies site or contact Glen Niebur.