We have multi-disciplinary research projects ranging from fundamental biological mechanisms at the molecular level to developing novel therapeutics and diagnostics for clinics.
Molecular and Cell Biology
The motivation of our biology study is to identify and analyze major components of signal transduction pathways from extracellular to intracellular molecules.
- Extracellular matrix: Matrilin-1 and -3 are cartilage specific matrix proteins. In addition to their structural properties, we discovered the regulatory roles of matrilins in chondrogenesis, cartilage homeostasis, anti-inflammation, angiogenesis, and bone fracture healing.
- Mechanotransduction: We identified components of mechanotransduction pathway from extracellular matrix to the nucleus in cartilage and bone. Major pathways include hedgehogs (Hhs), bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), and Wnts.
- Regulatory RNAs: As a Nobel Prize finding, RNA interference via small RNAs is known to effectively and specifically control which genes are active and how active they are. We identified a class of mechano-responsive RNAs including miRNA-365 using an in vivo mimicking mechanical stimulation system. These RNAs can regulate multiple mechanical related signaling pathways, which are critical for bone, cartilage and muscle development and aging.
- Stem cells and progenitor cells: We study functions of stem cells and progenitor cells during cartilage and bone development and investigate their ability of tissue regeneration in adult.
We have a strong animal research team in the laboratory. We utilize various animal models (including mouse, rat, chicken, porcine, etc) to identify disease phenotypes for understanding molecular mechanism during development, tissue homeostasis, aging and disease pathology in the musculoskeletal system.
As a research laboratory in a clinical department, we always dedicate to finding novel therapy or diagnostics to improve patient health. Here, we combine advances in biology with cutting-edge nanotechnology to deliver solutions to clinics.
- RNA therapeutics: Since the Nobel Prize in 2006, small RNAs provide a great therapeutic potential to either specifically inhibit a disease gene expression or regulate a disease process involving activity of multiple genes. In our laboratory, we invented a unique nucleic acid delivery vehicle, Nanopieces, for RNA therapeutics. This is the first RNA delivery vehicle specifically designed for matrix-rich musculoskeletal system. We are able to treat diseases via Nanopieces delivered therapeutic RNAs.
- Molecular diagnostics: We are able to deliver molecular probes (such as molecular beacon) to detect a specific gene expression in living animals. Such technology achieves in situ, real time and non-invasive diagnosis, much earlier and more sensitive than conventional protein diagnostics.
- Tissue engineering and repair: We developed a biomimetic matrix of native cartilage matrix protein with nanotubes for treatment of cartilage injury. By simple injection in vivo, such matrix can spontaneously form within cartilage. It can be used to treat growth plate fracture and prevent growth deformity.