Bone regeneration and fracture healing
Bone fractures belong to the most common disorders of the musculoskeletal system. In Germany, approximately 800,000 patients per year are clinically treated because of bone injuries. Although fracture treatment has significantly improved in recent decades, a significant proportion of all fractures still display delayed healing and complications, including non-union. Furthermore, the treatment of large bone defects, caused by injury, infections or tumour resection, remains a major clinical challenge.
Therefore, the overall aim of our research is to better understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of regular fracture healing as well as the pathomechanisms of disturbed healing and regeneration, which is known to be clinically associated with concomitant disorders (e.g. osteoporosis and inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis), severe trauma, and old age. Improved knowledge of the basic healing process is necessary to develop improved therapeutic strategies.
We particularly focus on the role of the immune system in bone regeneration and fracture healing, including the influence of inflammatory mediators, the complement system and innate immune cells. Furthermore, to improve bone regeneration, we study the efficacy of the therapeutic application of mesenchymal stem cells, from which bone-forming osteoblasts derive. We also investigate the regulation of bone healing by mechanical stimuli to optimise osteosynthetic devices for fracture stabilisation or for the development of therapeutic strategies using external application of mechanical stimuli.
To answer our research questions, we develop in vitro, in vivo and in silico models. In order to thoroughly analyse bone regeneration, we integrate various state-of-the-art techniques, including molecular biological analyses, histological and biomechanical analyses, micro-computed tomography (µ-CT), high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and in silico simulation of healing processes.