Master of Medicine, Sichuan University (2011)
Doctor, Sichuan University (2014)
Jill Helms, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Autologous bone grafting represents the standard of care for treating bone defects but this biomaterial is unreliable in older patients. The efficacy of an autograft can be traced back to multipotent stem cells residing within the bone graft. Aging attenuates the viability and function of these stem cells, leading to inconsistent rates of bony union. We show that age-related changes in autograft efficacy are caused by a loss in endogenous Wnt signaling. Blocking this endogenous Wnt signal using Dkk1 abrogates autograft efficacy whereas providing a Wnt signal in the form of liposome-reconstituted WNT3A protein (L-WNT3A) restores bone forming potential to autografts from aged animals. The bioengineered autograft exhibits significantly better survival in the hosting site. Mesenchymal and skeletal stem cell populations in the autograft are activated by L-WNT3A and mitotic activity and osteogenic differentiation are significantly enhanced. In a spinal fusion model, aged autografts treated with L-WNT3A demonstrate superior bone forming capacity compared to the standard of care. Thus, a brief incubation in L-WNT3A reliably improves autologous bone grafting efficacy, which has the potential to significantly improve patient care in the elderly.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2014.12.014
View details for PubMedID 25682158
In pediatric surgeries, cutaneous scarring is frequently accompanied by an arrest in skeletal growth. The molecular mechanisms responsible for this effect are not understood. Here, we investigated the relationship between scar contracture and osteogenesis. An excisional cutaneous wound was made on the tail of neonatal mice. Finite element (FE) modeling of the wound site was used to predict the distribution and magnitude of contractile forces within soft and hard tissues. Morphogenesis of the bony vertebrae was monitored by micro-CT analyses, and vertebral growth plates were interrogated throughout the healing period using assays for cell proliferation, death, differentiation, as well as matrix deposition and remodeling. Wound contracture was grossly evident on post-injury day 7 and accompanying it was a significant shortening in the tail. FE modeling indicated high compressive strains localized to the dorsal portions of the vertebral growth plates and intervertebral disks. These predicted strain distributions corresponded to sites of increased cell death, a cessation in cell proliferation, and a loss in mineralization within the growth plates and IVD. Although cutaneous contracture resolved and skeletal growth rates returned to normal, vertebrae under the cutaneous wound remained significantly shorter than controls. Thus, localized contractile forces generated by scarring led to spatial alterations in cell proliferation, death, and differentiation that inhibited bone growth in a location-dependent manner. Resolution of cutaneous scarring was not accompanied by compensatory bone growth, which left the bony elements permanently truncated. Therefore, targeting early scar reduction is critical to preserving pediatric bone growth after surgery.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bone.2014.06.007
View details for PubMedID 24933346