The Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory (OBRL) integrates biology and engineering, leading to a better understanding of the mechanical behavior and cellular responses of biological tissues; namely the knee joint meniscus. Research in the laboratory aims to find ways of preventing the onset of diseases, such as osteoarthritis, a painful and dehabilitating disease caused by bone-on-bone wear on the knee joint surface. A multiscale approach utilizing experimental techniques is employed.
Osteoarthritis is a dehabilitating disease that afflicts millions of Americans and is a growing epidemic. Of particular interest to Dr. Tammy Haut Donahue and her laboratory is the role of knee joint meniscal tissue in the development and progression of osteoarthritis. Work in the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory at UMass, Amherst directed by Prof. Haut Donahue aims to develop effective therapies for treating occult damage to the soft tissues of the knee joint following post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Additionally, tissue engineered replacements for connecting the soft tissue to underlying hard bone are being developed by Haut Donahue for knee joint damage. These replacement interfaces are being developed jointly by Haut Donahue, and collaborators from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and Queens University in Belfast. The replacements will recapitulate the native tissue interface and use unique biomaterials for scaffolds as well as aligned nanofibers. Students working on these projects use both computational and experimental techniques such as mechanical testing, biochemical assays and the finite element method to understand how the healthy human body works and how we might recapitulate developmental processes to formulate new tissues to repair or replace damaged tissue.