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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

$7.8 million advances arthritis research

Medical Center researchers have received a $7.8 million grant to speed the conversion of basic bone science into new treatments that prevent arthritis, improve fracture healing, and save limbs. In one case, the research aims to confirm preliminary findings that a handful of patients, previously confined to wheelchairs by fractures that would not heal, were able to walk again after receiving a drug treatment that finally healed the bone.

The award is the first of its kind, a Center of Research Translation grant in orthopaedics from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. It is part of a larger effort by the National Institutes of Health to fast-track basic scientific findings into meaningful clinical treatments. With this latest grant, the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation becomes the best funded of its kind in the nation in terms of NIH research dollars, according to a new ranking for the most recent NIH fiscal year.

Research at the new center will explore ways to heal trauma to bone and cartilage caused by aging and injury. About 3.6 million Americans suffer trauma to bones or soft tissue each year, with the worst damage caused by car crashes, gunshot wounds, and falls. The number of orthopaedic injuries has increased in recent years as baby boomers age and as U.S. soldiers in Iraq continue to suffer severe injuries.

“We are getting close to the point where decades of research finally pays off in new treatments that restore trauma patients’ ability to walk and use their limbs,” says Randy Rosier, chair of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. “We believe our new center will play a key role in a nationwide effort to reverse long-term disability.”

Among the research projects planned is a study to help predict who is likely to suffer from osteoarthritis in the knee after injury to the meniscus, the sponge-like layer that protects joints from the impact of running and jumping. Other projects include a study to investigate how aging delays fracture healing and a clinical trial to test a new method for replacing large segments of bone that are missing or too shattered to heal.

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