Program in Musculoskeletal Regeneration


The IRM Program in Musculoskeletal Regeneration (PMR) is the newest IRM Program (established in 2012).  The goal of our program is to develop novel approaches for the treatment and cure of musculoskeletal disorders.  As we all age, the tissues that make up our musculoskeletal system, our tendons and ligaments, our muscles and bones, our spinal discs, and our joint cartilage, all undergo a slow but steady decline in properties and healing capacity, leading in some instances to chronic and painful degenerative conditions.  Even in younger patients, both the weekend warriors and the elite athlete, acute ruptures, tears, sprains, and fractures can compromise daily function, limit mobility, and may lead to a more rapid onset of degeneration of these vital tissues.  The PMR seeks to address these major health concerns by bringing together innovative scientists, clinicians, and engineers to develop novel regenerative medicine treatments for the repair, replacement, and regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues.


PMR investigators have recently:

  • Developed novel biomaterials that can direct new tissue formation for the repair of dense connective tissues like the knee meniscus and the intervertebral disc  (Baker, et al.: PNAS, 2012, Nerurkar, et al.: Nat. Materials, 2009).
  • Discovered novel roles for retinoic acid agonists in regulating bone formation in vivo  (Shimono, et al.: Nat. Medicine, 2011).
  • Identified new molecular pathways essential for bone formation and regeneration  (Shitaye, et al.: Matrix Biol., 2010, Zhu, et al.: J. Cell. Physiol., 2012, Dishowitz, et al.: J. Orthop. Res., 2012).
  • Identified novel progenitor cell populations in developing limbs that contribute to joint tissue formation and repair (Mundy, et al.: Dev. Bio, 2011).
  • Produced engineered articular cartilage replacement materials with native-like tissue properties using custom 3d hydrogels and adult stem cell populations  (Erickson, et al.: Acta Biomat., 2012, Kim, et al.: Biomat., 2011, Bian, et al.: Biomat., 2011).


The Program in Musculoskeletal Regeneration is nationally recognized for:

  • Contributions to the development of new biomaterials used to repair musculoskeletal tissues (including cartilage, bone, disc, and tendons and ligaments)
  • The use of adult and other progenitor cells in the development of tissue engineered constructs for musculoskeletal applications
  • Forwarding our understanding of how musculoskeletal tissues form during development and repair after injury.

In addition to extending our work in these areas of excellence, ongoing work is focused on:

  • The development of novel translational models in which to test the efficacy of new musculoskeletal regenerative medicine therapies.
  • The clinical translation of these novel regenerative medicine approaches to cure musculoskeletal injury in patients of all ages.

Our interactive group of investigators is continually making important discoveries and advancing regenerative treatments for musculoskeletal conditions of all kinds, as well as training the next generation of scientists and engineers to become tomorrow’s leaders in musculoskeletal regeneration.

Robert L. Mauck, Ph.D., is Director of IRM Program in Musculoskeletal Regeneration and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering.  Dr. Mauck is an expert in the development of tissue-engineered biologic replacements for a range of musculoskeletal tissues.  He and his collaborators have demonstrated that both mechanical signals and sophisticated biomaterial design can be integrated to direct the formation of functional new tissues using adult progenitor cells.