Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Laboratory for Regenerative Technologies (Dr. Erin L. Hsu)

In their collaborative research efforts, Drs. Erin and Wellington Hsu head the Laboratory for Bone Biology Research within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  Their collective work encompasses two major research arms—Regenerative Technologies and Bone Toxicology.

The first research arm of the Hsu Laboratory aims to improve upon current clinically-employed methods of bone regeneration by developing and testing novel technologies. In conjunction with our collaborators in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Drs. Samuel Stupp and Ramille Shah, our projects seek to incorporate novel materials such as bioactive peptide amphiphile-based nanogels and 3D-printed ceramics into viable bone graft substitutes for spine fusion.

In their Bone Toxicology research arm, the Hsu Laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms by which cigarette smoke constituents inhibit osteogenic differentiation and bone healing.  Their work has shown that dioxin, which is a carcinogenic byproduct of combustion and a persistent environmental contaminant, inhibits bone formation and spine fusion in the rat.  Since dioxin is a potent ligand for the Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr) and is thought to exert its toxic effects primarily through activation of that receptor pathway, this work could lead to the development of a viable therapeutic approach to combat the inhibitory effects of smoking on bone healing.

Externally Funded Studies

Title: “A therapeutic approach to prevent smoking-mediated bone healing inhibition”
Sponsored by: Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation
Aim: Clarify mechanisms of dioxin action on bone healing and spine fusion, and identify potential therapeutics to prevent inhibition of bone healing and spine fusion in smokers
Wellington K. Hsu: Principal Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Co-Principal Investigator

Title: Development of a BMP-2-binding demineralized bone nanomatrix (DBN) for spinal fusion”
Sponsored by: Lumbar Spine Research Society
Aim: Develop a composite scaffold for bone regeneration and spine fusion that incorporates a BMP-2-binding nanofiber gel into a demineralized bone matrix and evaluate its efficacy in a rat posterolateral spine fusion model.
Wellington K. Hsu: Principal Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Co-Investigator

Title: “The Use of Purified Heparan Sulfate in Combination with a Heparin-Binding Biodegradable Nanogel to Reduce the Requirement for Exogenous BMP-2 in Spinal Fusion”
Sponsored by: Cervical Spine Research Society
Aim: compare the efficacy of unpurified and affinity-purified heparan sulfate for spinal fusion capacity when combined with a heparin-binding nanogel designed for bone regeneration.
Wellington K. Hsu: Senior Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Senior Investigator
Michael Nickoli: Resident Principal Investigator

Title: “Ultrasound-mediated gene therapy for bone formation and spine fusion”
Sponsored by: Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation
Aim: Demonstrate proof-of-concept that spinal fusion can be achieved in a rat posterolateral arthrodesis model using ultrasound-mediated transfection of BMP-2-overexpressing bone marrow stromal cells.
Wellington K. Hsu: Senior Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Senior Investigator
Dan Fuchs: Resident Principal Investigator

Title: “Evaluation of the effect of vancomycin powder on bone healing in a rat spinal arthrodesis model”
Sponsored by: Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation
Aim: Quantify the impact of vancomycin powder application on arthrodesis rates in a rat posterolateral spine fusion model.
Wellington K. Hsu: Senior Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Senior Investigator
Marco Mendoza: Resident Principal Investigator

Internally Funded Studies

Title: “The development of 3D-printed hyperelastic bone graft substitutes for orthopaedic applications”
Aim: Design, produce, and optimize 3D-printed hyperelastic hydroxyapatite composite scaffolds incorporating demineralized bone matrices and bioactive peptide amphiphile nanogels, and evaluate their efficacy as bone graft substitutes in vivo
Erin L. Hsu: Principal Investigator
Wellington K. Hsu: Co-Principal Investigator
Ramille N. Shah: Co-Investigator
Samuel I. Stupp: Co-Investigator

Title: “Evaluation of CXCL12 as a biologic for bone regeneration”
Aim: Evaluate the capacity of various CXCL12 isoforms to augment bone regeneration and spine fusion elicited by demineralized bone matrices, hydroxyapatite, and peptide amphiphile-based nanofiber gel matrices.
Erin L. Hsu: Principal Investigator
Wellington K. Hsu: Co-Principal Investigator
Ramille N. Shah: Co-Investigator
Samuel I. Stupp: Co-Investigator

Title: “Effect of rhBMP-2 in a novel, non-instrumented extremity nonunion model”
Aim: Establish a non-instrumented extremity ulna nonunion model in the rat, and evaluate the capacity of rhBMP-2 to heal an established ulnar nonunion.
Wellington K. Hsu: Principal Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Co-Investigator

Title: “Effect of rhBMP-2 on Lung Cancer Spine Metastasis in Rodents”
Aim: Quantify the impact of rhBMP-2 exposure on the establishment and progression of lung cancer metastatic spine lesions in the rat.
Wellington K. Hsu: Principal Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Co-Principal Investigator

Title: “Investigation into the effect of osteoporosis on spine fusion rates in the rat”
Aim: Determine whether ovariectomy-induced osteoporosis impacts fusion rates elicited by rhBMP-2 in rats.
Wellington K. Hsu: Principal Investigator
Erin L. Hsu: Co-Principal Investigator