Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) for bone therapy

Project Title: Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) for bone therapy 


Project Mentors,706-542-0985

  • Graduate Student/PostDoc mentors (Name, Affiliation and Email/Phone):
    • Emily Pendleton, Department of Neuroscience

Project Description:

Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy holds promise to treat a multitude of diseases, including bone disease and defects, and are globally in more than 300 clinical trials (  Yet, the U.S. has no FDA approved MSC products.  For therapeutic applications, MSCs come from different donors and have intrinsic differences in osteogenic potency and therapeutic utility.  Currently, these differences in MSC therapeutic efficacy can only be determined once cells have differentiated, thus further limiting their efficacy. In this project, we will work to improve osteogenic potency of human MSCs with initial variance in osteogenic potential and describe metrics that can determine MSC potency for bone therapy during the early stages of differentiation.  Cells will be induced to become more osteogenic through a myriad of stem cell engineering techniques and osteogenic potency will be determined early in the osteogenesis process with second-harmonic imaging. The differentiation process of the cells will be continued to relate early-stage markers to traditional late-stage osteogenic metrics. In the long term, results of this project will be used to determine factors necessary for optimal in vivo performance.


REU Student Role and Responsibility:

During this research initiative, the REU student will handle human MSCs.  The student will perform assays to determine optimal concentrations for osteogenic-inducing compounds and work to engineer cells to their optimal osteogenic potential. The student will be part of biomedical optic imaging sessions where they will learn about advances in the imaging field.  The student will learn a variety of skills and work with mentors to develop new optical techniques to measure osteogenic potency while learning traditional methods to analyze osteogenesis.


Required skills or courses for the REU student: The ideal student will have experience in coding (Matlab or Python), mammalian cell culture, and aseptic technique with at least a year of college chemistry.  Experience with murine animal husbandry and basic image analysis is preferred, but not required.


Expected Outcome for REU student: The proposed work is expected to advance a project focusing on early prediction of osteogenic potency and will likely contribute to a future peer reviewed publication that will be targeted at a journal like Stem Cell Reportsor Cell Reports.  Results are anticipated to be presented at national and international meetings such as the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting and the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.