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  • Orthopedics Research

    Braden Fleming, PhD in lab
    In an effort to combat arthritis arising from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, Braden Fleming, PhD (pictured) and fellow researchers in the department of orthopedics at Rhode Island Hospital, are studying alternative treatments to the conventional ACL reconstruction.

    Rhode Island Hospital researchers received a $2.2 million grant to support their work on a treatment that may prevent posttraumatic osteoarthritis, a common condition in men and women who suffer joint injuries to the knee and hip. The research will allow for further development of lubricin, a manufactured recombinant protein similar to a natural form of lubricant for the joints, which may prevent osteoarthritis following trauma. The study is funded by the United States Department of Defense, which has a powerful interest in developing new ways to keep veterans mobile after limb trauma. In the general population, trauma accounts for 18 percent of the total cases of osteoarthritis; in the military, orthopedic surgeons with the U.S. Army anticipate that almost one half of service men and women will acquire posttraumatic osteoarthritis following a new joint injury.

    The hospital was also awarded a grant that funded the creation of the COBRE for Skeletal Health and Repair, which works to improve preventive strategies or treatments for joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis, which affect an estimated 46 million Americans. The grant provides clinicians and research scientists the opportunity to work side by side to better understand how cartilage and joints are affected by injury, weight and other factors, and to develop treatments and preventive tactics for diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, bone development diseases and bone-related cancers.

    The new research projects to be funded by this grant encompass clinical, biological and engineering research, including analysis of the mechanical loading effects of long bone growth during skeletal development; the process by which joint cartilage degenerates in adult joint diseases; and novel strategies to harvest stem cells from fat tissues to repair bone. There are currently 84 COBRE research centers in the United States, and Rhode Island Hospital’s COBRE is one of just two nationally focused on bone and joint diseases. It has the unique distinction of conducting research projects on both adult and pediatric skeletal health and diseases; basic research as well as clinical and translational research; and working to develop repair and regeneration strategies using tissue engineering.