Musculoskeletal (MSK) health and disease is a signature research area for which UAMS is nationally and internationally recognized. The MSK group is rapidly expanding with recent faculty recruitments and is now enrolling all level trainees: junior faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, to work in well funded laboratories (NIH, VA, DoD, USDA).
The Musculoskeletal Health and Diseases hub will leverage the expertise of longstanding, internationally recognized research groups at UAMS and its partners to expand work in osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, developmental skeletal abnormalities, poor nutrition, and cancers that negatively impact the skeleton such as multiple myeloma and breast cancerTeresita Bellido, Creativity Hub Leader
Why is this hub’s focus of research so important?
Diseases like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, developmental skeletal abnormalities, poor nutrition, and cancer – such as multiple myeloma and breast cancer – negatively impact the skeleton. There is an unmet need to better understand the causes of these diseases to support the development of more effective prevention strategies and therapies. To address this need, UAMS has supported research in the musculoskeletal field for the last 20 years, including recent recruitments, and UAMS researchers are well funded by the NIH, the VA, USDA, and other sources. As a consequence, this is already a key signature area for which UAMS is nationally and internationally recognized.
How will the funding and establishment of the hub boost/accelerate the work that is being done in this area?
We identified key areas for investment that will take advantage of the existing strengths to promote synergy between, and expand the abilities of, existing programs. Our vision is to capitalize on the UAMS investment and the success of musculoskeletal investigators by strengthening focus areas that will enhance the recognition of UAMS as well as promote interaction between musculoskeletal investigators and those involved in cancer research (another key signature area at UAMS) and with investigators at the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center (ACNC) at Arkansas Children’s. These efforts will also increase the opportunities to recruit new investigators to UAMS, retain talent within the state, and increase diversity. Our goals are in sync with the 2029 UAMS vision plan developed by the UAMS Chancellor and the Provost.
Please comment on the caliber of the UAMS researchers currently working in this area.
UAMS researchers are among the most outstanding investigators in the musculoskeletal field. The Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, is represented by its Division Director, Elena Ambrogini, M.D., Ph.D., as well as Charles O’Brien, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Musculoskeletal Disease Research, which is supported by a NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant. This group of investigators carries on the vision of the UAMS and VA Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases, which was funded under the leadership of Stavros Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., starting more than two decades ago. C. Lowry Barnes, M.D., and David Bumpass, M.D., Chair and Vice-Chair of Research, respectively, of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, are committed to enhancing research in orthopedics at UAMS and actively interact with other UAMS departments. I am past president of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, and since my recruitment and return to UAMS as Chair of Physiology and Cell Biology in 2020, I have increased the emphasis on musculoskeletal research, making it one of our department’s research signatures. Mario Ferruzzi, Ph.D., who was recruited in 2021 as Director of the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, is committed to interacting with other UAMS departments. Drs. Ambrogini, O’Brien and I are also VA investigators, providing a solid foundation to the planned expansion of musculoskeletal research supported by the VA in the next few years.
What is the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration?
The goal is to accelerate the synergism among the departments of Physiology and Cell Biology, Medicine/Endocrinology, Orthopaedic Surgery, and the Cancer Institute (CI) at UAMS; enhance the UAMS and Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS) relationship; initiate collaborations with the Arkansas Children Nutrition Center; and expand collaborations with investigators at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. The following research areas will constitute the major focus of these efforts: bone and cancer; bone pathophysiology; and regulation of bone and muscle over the lifespan by nutrition and physical activity.