University receives $3.9 million grant for interdisciplinary musculoskeletal research

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 1:54pm

The University of Michigan received a $3.9 million grant from the National Institue of Health to fund its musculoskeletal research, a program which involves several schools including the School of Dentistry, the School of Public Health and LSA on Aug. 30.

Musculoskeletal work involves the way the muscles, skeleton, tendons and more relate to one another and work together.

The grant funds will be utilized by the Michigan Integrative Musculoskeletal Health Core Center — a program which combines all of the musculoskeletal research being done at the University by researchers across a variety of fields. It centralizes certain ideas for testing, such as how strong one’s bones or muscles are, so that the money will be utilized by researchers across a variety of departments conducting musculoskeletal research.

Core Center Director Karl Jepsen, professor and associate chair of research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, said the interest in musculoskeletal research is massive at the University.

“In every corner of the campus, someone has some sort of interest in bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage,” he said.

For example, he said, the Dentistry School is interested in tissue regeneration, while the College of Engineering is interested in orthopedics. The field also includes a lot of research in aging and ways to stay fit.

“Michigan really pushes the boundaries for integrated research,” Jepsen said. “A lot of research that is going on is funded at a single, investigated level tend to be very reductionist. People who study bone will only study bone. People who study muscle will only study muscle.”

Jepsen said what is missing from the field is people who study the interactions between bone and muscle. The Core Center allows the study of that intersection, pushing those boundaries to study these interactions.

Susan Brooks, associate director of the Core Center and professor of molecular and integrative physiology, wrote in an email interview that the Core Center uses the diverse schools within the University to advance its research beyond what would have been possible in an individual’s laboratory and works to bridge different fields.

“It is a major challenge to track down the knowledge that one needs at such a large institution,” she wrote. “This Core Center will facilitate bringing people in contact with the expertise that they need, and perhaps didn’t even know existed on campus.”     

Jepsen and Brooks both expressed that they hope the research done with the grant funds will push for change in the musculoskeletal research.

“The result, we hope, will be to increase the impact of the collective activities of basic scientists, clinicians, engineers to improve musculoskeletal health throughout the lifespan,” Brooks wrote.

Jepsen said the NIH was very interested in the ways the program was bringing people together.

“We had an opportunity to create an impact on the field,” he said.