Chemical Engineering (ChE) Assistant Professor Jungwoo Lee, an adjunct of the Biomedical Engineering Department, leads a multidisciplinary team of researchers at the UMass Institute for Applied Life Sciences that has developed a technique to replicate bone tissue complexity and bone remodeling processes. This breakthrough could help researchers advance their study of bone biology and assist in further developing drugs for osteoporosis.
The team includes: Yongkuk Park, and Ryan Carpenter from the ChE department; Eugene Cheong, biochemistry and microbiology; Jun-Goo Kwak, molecular and cellular biology graduate program; and Jae-Hyuck Shim of the UMass Medical School in Worcester. The researchers recently published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.
According to the UMass News Office release, Lee’s team developed a trabecular bone organoid model that reproduces essential extracellular complexity and cellular processes of trabecular bone cavities.
Trabecular bone, or spongy bone, is a light, porous bone enclosing numerous large spaces that give a honeycombed or spongy appearance.
Trabecular bones are the “shock absorbers” of the body, transferring mechanical loads from the articular surface to the cortical bone. These bones have a lower calcium content and more marrow content compared to cortical bone, and their density decreases with aging.
“Bone is a multifunctional tissue not only maintaining mechanical stability, but also regulating blood-forming and blood mineral content,” explains Lee. “However, investigating bone remodeling biology is challenging because this process occurs inside the bone cavity.”
According to Park, the lead author in this interdisciplinary study, “Hard and opaque bone tissue is difficult to access, thus creating realistic bone tissue models outside of the body will advance our understanding of fundamental bone biology as well as provide new opportunities to model disease progression and screening drug responses.”
As the New Office story notes, humanized trabecular bone models could improve the predictive power of pre-clinical studies and shorten the screening period for osteoporosis drugs. It could also help researchers facilitate the future study of numerous aspects of bone biology.
As Lee says about the Lee Research Group, “The mission of our laboratory is to deliver enabling and translational platform technologies that can advance basic biomedical research, solve various medical problems, and ultimately improve patient care. We design and manufacture a broad range of materials to construct standardized, functional human tissue models, and apply multi-dimensional imaging modalities to quantitatively capture complex, dynamic biological processes.”
Lee adds that “The highly cross-disciplinary and collaborative working environment provides unique opportunities to group members at every stage to foster skill-sets and intellectual proficiency at the intersection of engineering and medicine.” (March 2021)