Mechanical Engineering

Mouse knee joint-in-motion culture system for osteoarthritis research—design, capabilities, and experimental results

October 27, 2017

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Porter Hall 100

William C. Messner
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Tufts University


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful, debilitating, chronic disease of joints. Even though tens of millions of people in the US alone suffer from OA, treatment is currently limited to lifestyle change, pain management, and joint replacement. A major reason for the lack of drug therapies is that there have been no in vitro systems to systematically evaluate mechanical and biochemical stress-induced OA.

This seminar presents the development of two generations of Joint in Motion (JM) systems, which are novel electro-mechanical devices capable of culturing and actuating amputated mouse stifle (knee) joints for studying OA. We used the new system to determine the effects of culture medium glucose concentration on joint health. Using the first generation (JM1) device, we found that mechanical stress potentiates joint matrix loss caused by high glucose levels, and the detrimental effect of high glucose level is not caused by increased osmolarity. We developed the second generation (JM2) system to overcome shortcomings of the JM1 systems and to extend functionality for control joint load over the flexion-extension cycle. These new systems allow for the dissection of biochemical and biomechanical inputs, and serves as a platform for mechanistic and therapeutic testing for OA.


William Messner is a Professor and the former chair of Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University. From 1993-2012 Prof. Messner was in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon, where he held courtesy appointments in Electrical and Computer Engineering and in Robotics. There he led the servo control efforts at CMU’s Data Storage Systems Center. He also worked with Prof. Phillip LeDuc investigations of dynamics responses of cells and tissues to spatiotemporal stimulation. Dr. Messner received his BS degree in mathematics from MIT in 1985 and his Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1992. He specializes in controls with applications to robotics, data storage systems, and microfluidics and instruments for biological research. In 2005-06 he was a Visiting Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School where he worked on the rheology of protein networks. Prof. Messner has appeared on CCTV-America and in the PBS Nova special "The Great Robot Race." He is a Fellow of the AAAS, a Fellow of the ASME, and a Senior Member of IEEE. He is an avid swimmer and a big fan of Italian cappuccinos.

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